by Mary Jane Egan
Although she never honestly believed any
harm would come to her, Evelyn Portiss urged her husband to in
1981 to quit his all-night job with Sarnia Local 1089 International
Labourers Union after receiving mysterious late night telephone
calls, she told a hearing Tuesday.
Mrs. Portiss was testifying during the sixth
day of an Ontario Labor Relations Board hearing in over 50 complaints
by her husband Joe, 31 who alleges discriminatory hiring practices
under union business manager Rocco D'Andrea have deprived him
of work. She said her husband quit his job at Combustion
Engineering in July, 1981 after someone called her about midnight
asking "was I scared to stay at home alone with all that's
going on." she said she received two more calls on consecutive
nights "with just breathing" and as a result, her husband
Mrs. Portiss said she didn't report the calls
to the police because she wasn't really worried about them but
found them "annoying at night". She said many people thought her husband
was "crazy" for "fighting the union" and some
thought his life was "in danger" but that she never
Mrs. Portiss agreed in cross examination
by Mr. D'Andrea's lawyer Alan Minsky that at the time of the phone
calls, her husband had withdrawn his complaints against the union.
Mr. Portiss twice withdrew complaints from
the board before proceeding with those now being heard. "He had dropped the complaint she said Tuesday "But all along he had been trying to get a case against
the union and people said it was a losing battle."
Mrs. Portiss said she never learned the callers
Some 15 witnesses have testified during the
hearing at the Holiday Inn - many of whom are alleged by Mr. Portiss'
lawyer Brian Iler to have unjustly received work ahead of his
One such witness is 15-year union member
Oreste Gagliardi whose cross examination continued Tuesday after
an interruption last week due to translation problems. Testifying
through an interpreter, Mr. Gagliardi told the hearing he became
so angry in 1981 with union officials that he threatened to kill
union president Orfeo Iacobelli if the man didn't give him a job.
Mr. Gagliardi, who testified earlier that
he was able to obtain longer jobs by having a "few words"
with administration said Tuesday he once got the job he wanted
only after an altercation at the union hall during which he pretended
to have a pistol and demanded Mr. Iacobelli send him to work.
He said the incident occurred because his name had been "jumped"
on the union's out of work list.
It is a similar claim by Mr. Portiss that
has resulted in the hearing. Evidence before hearing chairman
Michel Picher is that laborers receive work on a first come, first
serve basis by registering with the out of work list and receiving
a number from one to 1000 as work becomes available and as the
list moves the laborer on top of the list receives the next job.
According to Mr. Gagliardi, his name was
skipped in 1981 after he lost a job as a cement finisher with
Inst-a-Rek. He said he was laid off due to a jurisdictional dispute
with another union and that because the layoff was beyond his
control the union promised he would receive preference for the
next job. But instead of receiving the preferential
treatment he expected, Mr. Gagliardi said he was sent to a short-term
job which angered him. After the confrontation with Mr. Iacobelli,
Mr. Gagliardi said he got a job with Collavino Inc. because it
was "a little bit longer" and he believed this was what
the union had promised him.
Twenty-four-year union member Donato Marinaro
testified he also had a complaint with the handling of the out
of work list. He said he suspected in December that his son had
been "jumped" on the list and asked to be able to see
the out of work book but was told by Mr. D'Andrea he couldn't
view the list because he was working. Mr. Marinaro also testified he was laid off
from a job at Lummus Canada due to a jurisdictional dispute but
was told by Mr. D'Andrea there was "nothing the union could
do" about it and that his name went to the bottom of the
In other testimony, Mr. Marinaro echoed evidence
of earlier witnesses who said the union constitutions were unobtainable.
According to Mr. Marinaro, he asked more than once for a copy
of the constitution but was told he would have to put his name
on a list and when "50 to 100" names were collected,
the books would be ordered. According to Mr. Marinaro, Mr. D'Andrea
estimated that could take as long as "three years".
Mr. Marinaro also complained of an inconsistency
in union procedure regarding job classifications. Like Mr. Portiss,
Mr. Marinaro said he had difficulty learning which classifications
were recognized by the union. Evidence is a laborer's job classification
is entered beside his name on the out of work list so qualified
men are sent to the job. Mr. Marinaro said he had heard vibrator man
was a classification and asked Mr. D'Andrea about it but the man
denied it. Mr. Minsky told Mr. Marinaro his client is "putting
you on notice he (Mr. D'Andrea) denies ever saying that to you."
Mr. Minsky objected to one of the last witnesses
called Tuesday by Mr. Iler - Rheal Page, a union member who told
the hearing he went to the hiring hall Monday of this week and
was told the union has no list of job classifications available.
Mr. Iler defended the "relevancy"
of the evidence saying "even at this stage there isn't a
list of classifications," but chairman Mr. Picher ruled the
evidence might be "good reply evidence" once Mr. D'Andrea
is presenting his case, but is not relevant at this point in the
hearing. Mr. Minsky had complained the hearing seemed
to be "growing with each passing day."
The hearing continues today with Mr. Iler
expected to complete his case and Mr. Minisky expected to begin
the case for Mr. D'Andrea.