By Eric Bender
A provincial police investigation into activities of Sarnia Local
1089 of the Laborers International Union has been virtually dropped,
Constable Jack Clark of the Petrolia detachment of the OPP told
an Ontario labor relations board hearing here Wednesday.
The constable was testifying on charges brought
against the union by Sarnia worker Joe Portiss, 31 unto union
hiring hall practices. Clark said the OPP was not concerned with
hiring practices, however.
Portiss said he wore an OPP supplied body
pack recording device to a March 11,1982, union meeting attended
by about 50 workers at the Devine Street labor hall. He said
he was asked to wear the pack after he had registered concern
in the fall of 1981 to MPP Lorne Henderson (PC-Lambton) about
what he believed to be discrepancies in the audited union financial
statement for 1979- 1980.
Portiss said he was directed by the OPP to
ask questions "in a certain area" of concern, but that
he could ask also about hiring hall practices. He said he was
instructed to act natural after being fitted with the body pack
at the Point Edward Holiday Inn by an OPP technical operations
officer from Toronto.
Clark testified Portiss was paid no fee and
was not sworn in as a police deputy. "He was going to assist
us in investigating crime," the officer said.
Clark said he and the technician monitored
the meeting from the body pack in an unmarked car a block and
a half from the hall. In cross-examination by union counsel Allan
Minsky of Toronto, the constable sais no criminal charges have
been laid and "for the most part it (the investigation) has
A legal argument over the admissibility and
legality of the tape recording consumed most of the morning Wednesday,
and the tribunal took more than three hours in the middle of the
day to make a decision. Board chairman Michel Picher ruled the
tape was not illegally obtained and therefore was not an infringement
of the union's rights under the Canadian constitution.
However, the tribunal released a transcript
of only that portion of the tape that pertained to hiring hall
practices - the case at hand. It amounted to about five pages
of transcript conversation between Portiss and union business
manager Rocco D'Andrea and others. It shows Portiss asking for
publication of the union constitution and for a list of job classifications
under which workers are sent out on jobs.
Portiss's complaint to the board was of discriminatory
hiring hall practices by D'Andrea. He alleged that other workers,
registered for work after he was, were given jobs before he was.
Portiss said Wednesday he was puzzled as to why some workers got
jobs ahead of him and he searched for all types of explanations
in the union books and in his mind. He said he feels family relationships
had something to do with it.