Quebec tackles black market in construction industry

QUEBEC CITY – Construction employers looking to make up time on weekends are now publicly admitting they can’t always afford to pay workers double time, so they resort to hiring them illegally.

In a letter to the Labour Minister, the president of the Association de la construction du Québec (ACQ), Jean Pouliot, admitted clandestine work in the construction industry is a very real, very big problem.

“Everybody in Quebec knows probably, about this black market.”

He argued iron-clad collective agreements have made honesty in the business almost impossible.

“I was surprised of that written admission. Everybody in Quebec knows probably, about this black market. But to see a written admission is very surprising, that’s the surprise and we will act,” said Labour Minister Agnès Maltais.

Maltais is asking the Commission de la construction du Québec (CCQ), a referee group for the construction industry, to step up inspection.

The commission is in charge of comparing workers’ hours with the hours declared by their employers.

“People that try to do work under the table are always being creative and finding new ways to do that,” said spokesperson Louis-Pascal Cyr.

“This is why the CCQ is always trying to find the better ways to identify that work.”

The CCQ won’t be working alone.

Inspectors from Revenu Quebec said they’re trying to recuperate billions of dollars in undeclared taxes.

“You have a lot of different types of tax evasion but in the construction industry it’s $1.5 billion every year.”

Spokesperson Stéphane Dion explained dishonesty in the construction industry amounts to 43 per cent of the province’s total yearly fiscal losses.

“For sure that’s a lot of money that could have been invested in public services, so that’s why it’s important to fight against tax evasion,” said Dion.

“You have a lot of different types of tax evasion but in the construction industry it’s $1.5 billion every year.”

While the minister recognizes black market work will never completely disappear, she is now asking the different inspection agencies to do more to halt what’s being qualified as a plague for the already bruised and battered industry.

© 2013 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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