The man who heads the most militant postal local in Canada is a charismatic teetotaller who works seven days a week and claims no interests outside his union activities. Marcel Perreault, 55, became a union shop steward in 1959, just three years after joining the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), and became the local’s president in 1968. But after leading his 3,400 Montreal members into a full-scale walkout, Perreault finds himself battling more than just Canada Post. His defiance of the rotating strike strategy set by the union’s national executive also provoked a confrontation with CUPW president Jean-Claude Parrot, one of Perreault’s oldest colleagues in the labor movement.
Parrot and Perreault have fought past labor battles against the post office side by side, including disruptions during which Parrot was the Montreal local’s first vice-president under Perreault. But former postmaster general Bryce Mackasey, who negotiated with both men during the 42-day 1975 postal strike, noted important differences in style between them. Said Mackasey: “Parrot reflects broad concerns about social issues and politics. Perreault is a loner, a highly educated but inflexi-
ble man whose whole life is bound up in his union.” Despite his low national profile, Perreault has negotiated his union’s size and militancy into a powerful bargaining position. During the sometimes violent strikes in the 1970s, the Montreal local was often accused of being controlled by Communists. But Perreault denies that the union executive was ever motivated by ideology. Said Perreault: “You will not hear us engage in long discussions of rhetoric which achieve nothing.”
Perreault and Parrot have had differences in the past. Last year Parrot unsuccessfully ran a slate of candidates for the Montreal executive against Perreault and his associates. The bitterness between the two men lingers. Last week Louis Laberge, president of the Fédération des travailleurs du Québec, begged them to set aside their personal enmity until after the current strike is settled. The attempt failed, but a tired Perreault refused to enter a war of words with Parrot. Said Perreault: “The enemy is not the national executive. It is Canada Post.”
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