The latest witness at the Charbonneau Commission's hearings began the week telling of the extent to which unions imposed their will on Quebec's construction sites.
Michel Comeau, an investigator with the inquiry, took the stand Monday morning, telling of how bullying and intimidation were the rule, rather than the exception.
He told of personally meeting with dozens of people who have been harassed or threatened on the job — to the point where the prevailing workplace culture even compelled some employers to essentially pay workers their full salaries to not work.
He cited the construction of a Hydro-Quebec dam in the Saguenay in the mid-2000s as a prime example.
A German company, Bauer, was in charge of the power plant project in Péribonka. Many of the German employees at the site, Comeau contended, were intimidated to the point where some returned home. The harassment only ended when Bauer's representatives met with FTQ reps, including Jean Lavallée and Jocelyn Dupuis, and agreed to take on FTQ members to "observe" the German workers.
That led to a group of workers being paid salaries ranging from $82,000 to $92,000 a year to do absolutely nothing — including overtime for weekends and holidays.
Hydro-Quebec paid the money out essentially to buy peace. On its books, Hydro referred to the expense as "risk management".