(MONTREAL) Racialized workers suing union, city for inaction following discrimination allegations
A group of blue-collar workers in Montreal North are suing their union and the City of Montreal, claiming not enough was done following allegations of racial discrimination on the job.
Dozens of workers came forward last spring with allegations involving discrimination in the workplace, including being denied promotions in favour of white workers. Many complained that racialized workers were often forced to do less desirable shifts or more physical tasks when compared to white workers.
“The borough was looking for a young white employee and it found one,” says a Black worker who would only go by his first name of Celestin, for fear of reprisal.
Celestin says he was passed over for a promotion twice, with white workers getting the job instead.
In June, the union and the city launched an investigation and released a report confirming the presence of discrimination and systemic racism in Montreal North. The report included 11 recommendations for the city and union to address these issues.
But since then, workers say nothing has changed.
And workers they say they made a concerning discovery over the weekend: their union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, was trying to settle their grievances without consulting them first.
“No communication, no discussion. We never sat down with the employer or with the union,” says worker Gino Clyford Lubris.
Now, a group of 28 non-white workers have decided to file a suit against the city and their union for failing to defend their rights. They’re demanding $10,000 in damages each.
« The union isn’t doing anything for us, » says Celestin, who has been in his job for more than a decade.
Fo Niemi, executive director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), is helping the group with their suit.
“We were very surprised and very disappointed. For six months not much has been done to sit down and explain what their rights are, and what they can do,” says Niemi.
The union denies the charge and says it’s looking for a solution.