WINDSOR, Ont. – Less than a day after he lost the Ward 10 election, former council candidate Jeff Gaudette lost his job.
The 45-year-old bridge worker held a news conference on Tuesday to announce that his employer — the Ambassador Bridge company — had just fired him.
“I’ve worked extremely hard for 20 years for the Ambassador Bridge. And this is the thanks that I’ve gotten: A kick in the seat,” Gaudette said. “I’ve been bullied by probably the biggest bully in town.”
Gaudette said he’s sure the bridge company’s treatment of him would be different if Monday night had ended with him on council. “If I’d have won, those guys would be kissing my (butt),” he fumed.
According to Gaudette, the official reason given for his termination was absenteeism. He said the bridge company accused him of missing work for his campaign efforts.
Specifically, Gaudette said the company thinks he was out campaigning during three days he took off in the past month for medical reasons.
Gaudette said he can prove that he was stuck in bed those three days due to his diabetic condition. “I’ve got the doctors’ notes,” he said.
A chief steward for Teamsters Local 879, Gaudette said he’s clashed with the bridge company on other issues — such as health and safety.
He said he believes the real reason for his dismissal was his bringing attention to a “crack” in the bridge’s concrete.
“I think we need to look at the bridge and the safety of it,” Gaudette said.
“I’m not an engineer but it’s a suspension bridge, and the crack is on the Canadian side, while work was being done on the U.S. side.”
Bridge company president Dan Stamper acknowledged that Gaudette raised the issue of a “crack,” but said the matter was investigated by the Ministry of Labour and the union — and determined to be unfounded. “There is no issue,” Stamper said.
Asked for comment on Gaudette’s other statements, Stamper would only answer: “I will not talk about our personnel issues, other than to say that we have policies, and we expect all our employees to live up to those policies.”
“At the end of the day, decisions are made on what’s right and what’s wrong. I’m disenchanted that, rather than go through the process, (Gaudette) would be holding a news conference.”
Meanwhile, Gaudette said he was fired by Stamper personally via speaker phone. “I don’t know if I even want to work for this guy anymore, anyway,” he said.
Rick Parent, a business agent with Teamsters Local 879, said he believes the firing of Gaudette violates procedure.
According to Parent, the disciplinary action against Gaudette at this point should have been a one-day suspension — not immediate termination.
“We will file a grievance and take it from there,” Parent said. “They did not follow the disciplinary procedure under the guidelines of the collective agreement.”
Gaudette brought his family of five to the news conference, including his daughter who has special needs.
He added that he’s never been a puppet for Stamper or bridge owner Matty Moroun. “There’s no buying me out. I’m a man of the uppermost integrity.”
Gaudette said he doesn’t consider what happened on election night a loss because he gained so much from the experience. He suggested a future comeback.
“I thank all of you that voted for me. And all of you that didn’t vote for me — I thank you as well. Because I know in four years you will vote for me.”