By Mary Jane Egan
March 23, 1983
Allegations of tampering with evidence before
the Ontario Labor Relations Board, were hotly disputed Tuesday
by the lawyer representing Sarnia Local 1089 International Laborers
Union at the continuation of a hearing into union hiring practices.
Alan Minsky, the Toronto lawyer representing
union business manager Rocco D'Andrea, argued the tampering claims
made during the hearing's last day Feb 2, were "positively
bizarre." Mr. Minsky has been defending the union against
claims by 31-year old Sarnia laborer Joe Portiss that discriminatory
hiring practices under Mr. D'Andrea between 1980 and 1982 allowed
some 50 of his fellow union members to unjustly receive work ahead
of him. But the hearing took a strange twist last month when
Mr. Portiss' Toronto lawyer Brian Iler announced he had documented 19 instances
since the proceedings began in November, in which union records
had been altered.
In a hearing which has become marked by the
unusual, Mr. Iler was allowed to become a witness Tuesday to testify
to alleged evidence-tampering. The hearing took another
extraordinary turn last month when Point Edward Police were called
to investigate reports of a substance being slipped into the drinking
water on the table shared by Mr. Portiss and his lawyer. Two
union members who drank from the water jug complained their mouths
were burned but the sample, sent last month to Toronto's forensic
laboratory, has yet to be returned.
As a result of the jug incident, Tuesday's
proceedings resumed in a larger room at the Holiday Inn which
is locked during adjournments. The hearing, to run until Thursday
in the Great Hall, is open to the public.
Hearing chairman Michel Picher, conceding
it was unusual to allow Mr. Iler to become a witness at the hearing,
granted the request due to the seriousness of the evidence-tampering
allegations. Mr. Iler testified he was"shocked" to
discover 19 cases where changes had been made to the union's employee
Mr. Iler testified various laborer job classifications
- such as forklift operator, burner and carpenter - appeared to
have been added to the book which was an exhibit before the board.
Much of Iler's case hinges on entries in the referral book and
the union's out-of-work book since he has claimed Mr. Portiss's
name was deliberately skipped over when jobs were assigned.
The hiring hall is supposed to operate on
a numerical basis with a laborer getting work when his number
reaches the top of the list. Mr. Minsky has argued that jobs
will sometimes be assigned out of order if an employer requests
a laborer with specific skills. The union determines a laborers
skills based on what job classifications are listed beside his
name on the out-of-work list. But Mr. Iler claims various job
classifications were added to union documents after he initially
examined them, presumably to justify laborers being called for
work out of order.
Mr. Minsky spent over three hours Tuesday
cross-examining Mr. Iler as to his recollection of how the union
documents appeared upon his initial examination. Mr. Iler said
he and his client spent hours carefully documenting the job classifications
which appeared on union records during the period when Mr. Portiss
was unemployed. He said his 19 claims of evidence tampering
are based on the fact he did not record the 19 laborers involved
as having the job classifications which now appear in the referral
book. But Mr. Minsky argued Mr. Iler could easily have overlooked
some classifications or "been mistaken" about others,
in light of the fact "thousands of entries" appear in
When Mr. Iler told Mr. Minsky he would be
"very surprised" if there were any other classifications
listed which did not appear in his own research notes, Mr. Minsky
produced some 20 examples of such classifications. Mr. Minsky
said the examples prove Mr. Iler was remiss in his research but
Mr. Iler charged the 20 instances likely represent additional
tamper by the union with hiring hall documents.
Mr. Iler argued since the examples cited
by Mr. Minsky do not directly relate to his client's complaints,
he likely overlooked them. But Mr. Minsky maintains, Mr. Iler
has been mistaken in the past about alleged union wrong-doing
citing additional complaints brought to the board by Mr. Portiss
and later withdrawn for having no substance.
The hearing ended on another odd note Tuesday
when Mr. Iler called local secretary Mary-Lou Lapratte who had
told the board she transcribed a tape recording given her by Mr.
Portiss which he secretly recorded at a March 11,1982 union meeting.
Mr. Iler said the tape was initially recorded at the request
of the Ontario Provincial Police in connection with an investigation
being conducted into union business.
Mr. Portiss testified last month that he
has been "sworn to secrecy" by police and told not to
discuss any possible criminal charges against the union until
after the hearing.
A decision is expected today as to whether
the tape will be allowed in evidence. Mr. Minsky has already
indicated he has concern about "the laws of interception
of communication and whether my clients rights have been violated."
The case for Mr. D'Andrea is expected to