Picket line outside home 'was just too much,' says Terry French

Picket line outside home 'was just too much,' says Terry French

Former provincial cabinet minister Terry French says striking workers crossed a line when they started picketing his house, and he's relieved he's been granted a court injunction against them.

No longer in politics, French is now the president of the Construction Labour Relations Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (CLRA), which is in negotiations with Local 125A of the International Union of Elevator Constructors.

"I live with my 74-year-old mother, my then-17-year-old daughter, and 10-year-old son," said French.

"They got up every morning to face a group of individuals picketing in our driveway with fire barrels. Very unsettling for the family."

The elevator and escalator workers have been in negotiations with the CLRA since their contract expired in July 2016.

French said the workers started picketing outside his home in Conception Bay South before Christmas, and stepped things up in February and March.

"On one particular morning, my son noticed the big fire, and he was concerned this may do some damage to his house," said French.

"You don't know what's going through a 10-year-old's mind."

Dinner table conversation

Interviewed at his home in C.B.S. on Tuesday, French said there were times when the picket line delayed his wife getting to work and his daughter to school, and — after months — began to preoccupy the family's thoughts.

"It becomes a topic of conversation around the dinner table, around the breakfast table," said French. "You talk about it a lot, and it was just too much."

The situation became intolerable, so French said he had to go to court to seek an injunction to stop the picketing.

That injunction was granted in Supreme Court in St. John's last week.

'Calmer heads prevailed'

Among other things, the injunction states the workers must not picket, parade or congregate "at or near the French residence."

The union did not challenge the injunction, something French said he's pleased with, but added he's surprised he had to go to court in the first place.

"First it started off the occasional day here or there, and I understand they can set up a demonstration line and so on, but it went a bit too far and it got a bit out of hand," said French.

"It was unfortunate that we had to go to court, but calmer heads prevailed. There was no big issue in court."

While having the picket line outside his house was unsettling, French said he never felt threatened by workers.

Negotiations hit a lull

He also wonders if his house would have been targeted if the key negotiators for the union were local, and not from outside the province.

"I know one is from the U.S. and one is from Nova Scotia. I don't know if that made a difference. But I have to believe that the 16 [picketing workers] that came here on a regular basis, really didn't want to be here," said French.

"I'm the only one directly involved. It's OK to fight for your rights, but obviously, when you infringe on others' rights, especially people not directly involved — my family — then they are being penalized, and that certainly wasn't good to do."

French said negotiations have currently hit a lull, but he's optimistic there is an end in sight.