Sarnia Observer


Board Slams Laborers' Union

July 13,1983

Discrimination, nepotism and blatant favoritism were rampant in the operation of Sarnia Local 1089 International Laborers Union under business manager Rocco D'Andrea, the Ontario Labor Relations Board has found.

In a 35-page report released Tuesday, the board upheld the complaints of 32-year-old laborer Joe Portiss who alleged throughout a 12-day hearing which ended in April that Mr. D'Andrea's hiring habits unjustly deprivedhim of some 47 union jobs between 1980 and 1982.

In what is being heralded by Mr. Portiss' lawyer as a landmark decision, the board has ordered the union and its officers to implement 10 relief measures designed to eliminate the "obvious abuse of power" the board has identified within the union's management.

In considering these orders, the board felt the "widespread disregard of the most fundamental rights of members of Local 1089 so serious, it considered suspending or removing Mr. D'Andrea from office. But the board concluded that since Mr. Portiss' Toronto lawyer Brian Iler did not seek such strong remedial action in his case, it would not make such an order. However, the board concluded it would consider such measures if its relief orders are not implemented.

The board has ordered the union and its officers to cease all arbitrary and discriminatory hiring practices. It calls for a written list of hiring hall rules to be posted in the hall and a copy to be provided to the union's 1,200 members.

At the next general union meeting in September, the board has ordered a committee of no less than five members be formed to prepare, within 90 days, a list of specialized job classifications and rules governing them. These are also to be provided all members.

In what is considered a most unusual order in a case involving a union, the board has ordered that within 30 days, an outside auditor be retained at the union's expense to oversee union books, administration of hiring hall rules and procedures for a period of two years. The person or firm hired must be from outside Sarnia and is to have no contractual relation with the union.

The board has also called for copies of the out-of-work list to be posted in the hiring hall as well as a list of employer job requests. The lists are to include names of dates of referrals so "all members know their place and the place of others" on the out-of-work list.

Responding to Mr. Portiss' evidence that an arm injury prevented him from accepting some union jobs, thus causing his name to return to the bottom of the out-of-work list, the board has ordered establishment within 90 days of a list of injured or partially disabled members "with a view to devising a system for the referral of such members without penalty or discrimination." When such rules are adopted, they are to be posted in the union hall.

The board has ordered monetary compensation to Mr. Portiss for all wages and benefits lost as a result of the union's violation of Section 69 of the Labor Relations Act discriminatory hiring practices. The figure is to be decided upon between both parties in the dispute and Mr. Iler's initial estimate is between $15,000 and $25,000.

The union is also ordered to post in English and Italian copies of a board notice which states the union will adhere to the board's orders. The notice is to be posted for 90 consecutive working days.

In response to evidence at the hearing that union members found it difficult to secure acopies of the union constitution, the board has ordered copies be made available, at no cost, to all members and that a reasonable number be kept at the hall.

In making its findings on the case, the board frequently refers to the fact Mr. D'Andrea and his Toronto lawyer Alan Minsky made a motion for a non-suit and called no evidence at the hearing - -concluding they had "no case to respond to."

The board said this absence of an explanation compels it to draw adverse inferences against the union. And it states that there is overwhelming evidence that the job classification "scheme" of the union was "left deliberately vague by Mr. D'Andrea and the union executive to facilitate the practice of favoritism and discriminatory job referrals."

"The evidence confirms that hte hiring hall has been used by the officers of Local 1089 and especially Mr. D'Andrea as an instrument of patronage. Patronage and nepotism have no place in the hiring hall contemplated under the Labor Relations Act," it states.

The board concluded Mr. D'Andrea, and union president Orfeo Iacobelli regarded Mr. Portiss and fellow laborer Donato Marinaro as "political enemies." Both had run unsuccessfully for election to the union's executive.

Mr. Marinaro, who has also filed a complaint of discriminatory hiring practices against the union, will have his case heard July 26 by the board.

The board blasted the union officials for nepotism, stating "the evidence establishes that the family ties of Mr. D'Andrea and Mr. Iacobelli extend throughout the union's administration and its general membership. Specifically, the board cites the case of Cecilio Iacobelli, saying he jumped past 250 laborers to secure a job in 1981.

The board also notes the hiring hall books are kept primarily by Anna Iacobelli - Mr. Iacobelli's daughter.

While much of the evidence at the hearing surrounded job classifications and Mr. D'Andrea's contention that laborers' names were skipped over if they had a particular skill, the board concludes at least one job classifications was "inserted deliberately to conceal the blatant favoritism shown Cecilio Iacobelli. And it adds it therefore would "see no reason to strain to rely on any of the notations of classifications in the hiring hall books to explain referrals out of turn."

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