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This article was published 24/10/2011 (3462 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
QUEBEC -- From a threat to break the legs of a cabinet minister to the workyard beating of a woman with steel-toed boots and the sudden shutdown of construction sites, a battle over union powers in Quebec has turned ugly, quickly.
The jaw-dropping developments occurred on multiple fronts Monday.
The provincial cabinet minister responsible for ushering in reforms, Labour Minister Lise Thériault, said an anonymous caller to her office threatened over the weekend to, "break both her legs."
Also, a female construction worker failed to appear at legislative hearings into the changes, where she was scheduled to testify about weaknesses of the present system.
The legislative committee heard the woman had been beaten on a job site, kicked with steel-toed boots in an incident that was apparently unrelated to her planned testimony.
Those events transpired amid a sudden shutdown of the province's biggest construction projects; workers stormed off job sites in several cities Monday in protest against the government's Bill 33.
"I won't back down," Thériault told reporters.
She has beefed up her security in recent weeks, even before the anonymous call.
The government is trying to limit the power of unions to pick which workers get assigned to job sites. Bill 33 would allow contractors to choose their own employees. But union workers are fighting back.
Crews abandoned job sites across the province Monday morning, paralyzing projects ranging from a Montreal superhospital to a hydroelectric site, a supermarket and an seniors' home. Workers threatened to stay away all week.
The workers insisted the illegal stoppages were not organized by their leaders -- an act that would potentially result in penalties.
They said the walkouts in several Quebec cities were a spontaneous gesture from frustrated workers.
The government says it doesn't buy the explanation. It says buses were seen transporting workers away from job sites.
Also, some workers have said they were forced to leave.
And immediately after the walkout, there was a union gathering taking place at an Italian wedding-reception hall in east-end Montreal.
A reporter from The Canadian Press attempted to enter the building and was told to leave. One man slammed the door in the reporter's face -- but not before extending his tattooed left arm to deliver a middle-finger salute.
Another worker joked: "We're here for haircuts."
Premier Jean Charest has recently begun to change his stance on corruption in the construction industry, appointing an inquiry to look into it.
Thériault and the Liberals want to give the provincial construction commission -- not the unions -- control over who enters work sites.
Construction commission head Diane Lemieux refrained from directly blaming the unions.
But she addressed union leaders.
"I am asking the union leaders to take the actions they need to take to end this," she said.
-- The Canadian Press