Entering a New Era of Management-Employee Mistrust.
What do Sudbury miners and striking University staff have in common? They are both on surveillance tape taken by agents of Accu-Fax -- what many have called "union-busters.".
Accu-Fax Investigations Inc. is a private security firm specializing in "labour dispute services." Their web site states that "regardless of your labour disruption, Accu-Fax will keep you operational."
Over 1500 striking McMaster University Staff Association (MUSA) members are currently being watched by Accu-Fax.
MUSA Vice-President Diana Parker says that while no incidents have come up between the watchers and the watched she is nevertheless troubled by the McMaster administration's choice of security firms.
"What bother's me is the University is using a company whose web site happily proclaims that it will supply replacement workers and will cheerfully engage in strikebreaking."
Parker says that the administration's choice of security along with their "unfortunate strike history" sends "a very poor signal" to MUSA employees.
The month old MUSA strike was preceded by 3 other labour disruptions on campus within the last school year.
Pickets are video-taped at the University entrances by Accu-Fax employees stationed in vans on University property.
McMaster University Director of Security Ron Thorn won't confirm or deny that Accu-Fax has been hired. "I'm not sure I want to give that information out. There could be some pressure put on them from outside.I don't want picketers putting pressure on the surveillance team."
Thorn admits to hiring a surveillance team to do "video work." The current spy team was hired for a number of
reasons, including "strictly economical, availability, and their good record" according to Thorn.
Both Andrea Farquhar and Gillian Howard of McMaster's public relations department were "unable to answer" queries
about McMaster's choice of labour security firms.
Renee Jarvis, Labour Relations Coordinator with the Hamilton police is the first to confirm that Accu-Fax is the
company working the site.
Accu-Fax advertises that many of their security and private
investigators are "ex-military or law enforcement" personnel.
They also claim references are their "best sales tool" but Darrell Parsons, President of the Mississauga based
company won't answer any questions once he establishes that VIEW is Hamilton's equivalent to certain Toronto
"Yeah, see, I apologize, I really gotta run" is all he says before hanging up.
What Parsons won't say, the Accu-Fax web site offers; transportation services with "drivers experienced in crossing
hostile picket lines" and willing to use "any mode necessary" to get "personnel" in, including buses "strike proofed
with 'lexan' glass to protect passengers," and even helicopters.
They have "on numerous occasions supplied replacement workers" and they have relocated manufacturing facilities
The University is already using replacement labour by moving part-time employees to full-time, increasing the hours
available to student employees, and hiring retirees, says MUSA's Parker.
"This causes the strike to go longer, it draws the pain out for
students, MUSA and the Administration" she says.
Rick Grylls, acting president of Mine, Mill and Smelters Union local 598 of the Canadian Auto Workers says Accu-Fax
are basically modern day Pinkertons (notorious 19C strike breakers.)
Grylls was the union's strike coordinator during a six and a half month strike last year in Sudbury where, Grylls
says, Accu-Fax used "front-line stormtroopers" to escort replacement workers (or scabs) through picket lines.
The use of scab labour was made legal by the Mike Harris Tories, when they killed a law brought in under the NDP
government of Bob Rae limiting the use of replacement workers during strikes.
Besides labour dispute services Accu-Fax will provide "crisis/emergency management, electronic sweeping and
debugging, bodyguards, merchandise escort, and mobile patrol and response, uniformed security guards " and more.
Accu-Fax has been hired by Hamilton's Slater Steels for a potential strike involving members of United Steelworkers
of America (USWA) local 4752.
USWA Local 4752 Union President Jim Howe says that the hiring of Accu-Fax is "a complete turnaround" for Slater,
where he says union/management have historically had a good
"We've never had any major problems," he says. A strike at Slater 4 years ago was a four-day affair and didn't
involve hiring private security.
"This reeks of American style tactics," says Howe, "It's intimidation and it's rubbing the wrong way with our guys."
During last year's five and a half-week long McMaster Teaching
Assistants' strike (TA's represented by CUPE 3906),
Thorn hired London Protection to do the video work. London Protection International advertises many of the same
rvices as Accu-Fax, services that include trucks, vans and buses to drive replacement workers, management or goods th
rough picket lines.
CUPE 3906 Business Manager Mike Skinner says that while surveillance is ostensibly there for the "protection" of
picketers, he agrees that the effect is one of intimidation.
MUSA has been on strike for 32 days as of Monday, April 02, 2001.