London Free Press

Union Probe Dropped OPP Tells Investigators

By Eric Bender
Spring 1983

SARNIA- 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 been discontinued."

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.

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