November 1982


BY Gordon Sanderson

SARNIA - A rank and file member of the powerful 1200 member Sarnia Local 1089, International Laborers Union, said Thursday his life has been threatened and his home turned into a "house of fear" for his wife and two children because of his efforts to get a public hearing into the union's hiring hall practices.

Seated at the kitchen table of his townhouse with his family and friends, who at various times added corroborating comments, Joe Portiss, 31, related an incredible story of bureaucratic run-around and political put-offs in his one man fight for what he perceives as discrimination in allocation of union jobs.

Since he first challenged the union hall two years ago, Portiss said he has been threatened, asked how much money he wants to drop his charges and subjected to constant harassment. His house was broken into and documents stolen, his telephone has been tapped and he has been followed, he said.

Portiss said he did not wish to elaborate on the threats but hopes details will be made public at a labor board hearing. He said he told police about them but is more concerned about the safety of his family than himself. He had not reported the breakin because " I was hoping whoever it was might come back and I would catch them."

Portiss said he finally decided to contact the press Thursday because the Ontario Labor Relations Board has postponed an interrupted hearing into the allegations. But only one reporter showed up.

He said more than 20 witnesses had been summoned to testify in a resumption of the hearing Tuesday in Sarnia into his complaints and notice of the hearing had been posted when his lawyer, Brian Iler of Toronto, was informed Wednesday the hearing has been delayed to Jan. 10-12.

Iler confirmed the hearing has been delayed adding he was told by a labor ministry official there had been a mix up in scheduling and one of the three members assigned to the hearing had another commitment Tuesday.

Portiss said "We started the hearing Nov. 17 and 18 and I only agreed to an adjournment on the promise it would be to Nov. 30. But all along the union has been telling me they'd get it put off." He accused the labor board of breaking a promise and siding with the union. He said the further delay will seriously inconvenience witnesses, some of whom have scheduled vacations on the January dates. Portiss said the witnesses were alienated.

***this is a 2 part article

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