10/21/2013 12:42 EDT | Updated 12/21/2013 05:12 EST

FTQ members try to unseat boss Arsenault over Hells links

Links made at the Quebec corruption inquiry tying the Quebec Federation of Labour (FTQ) to the Hells Angels have some federation members trying to unseat President Michel Arsenault.

Former FTQ insider and Charbonneau commission star witness Ken Pereira has been testifying about close ties between senior members of the federation and the Hells Angels.

The FTQ is one of the most powerful union federations in the province, representing 70,000 workers.

Pereira said Arsenault was aware of the links but did nothing to stop them.

He testified that members of organized crime fixed the 2008 election for the union’s executive, saying that he saw bikers circling the polling station.

He said one of Arsenault’s opponents in that election suddenly dropped out, later telling Pereira that he was forced to pull out by Jacques “Israël” Émond, a powerful member of the Hells Angels.

Next month, Arsenault is up for re-election and is running unopposed. That has prompted at least two union locals from the affiliated Canadian Union Of Public Employees to introduce a motion trying to force Arsenault to step down.

But Michel Parent, the president of the affiliated Montreal blue-collar workers’ union, supports Arsenault.

The only thing Arsenault has done wrong was to admit being on the boat of Tony Accurso, for which he already apologized, said Parent.

Accurso, a former Quebec construction boss,was arrested in April 2012 in a sweep by Quebec's anti-corruption unit (UPAC) and faces a string of charges, including fraud, conspiracy, influence-peddling, breach of trust and two counts of defrauding the government.

Parent said the two groups within the FTQ attempting to unseat Arsenault represent only 13 per cent of the CUPE’s FTQ-affiliated members — far from the majority.

Besides, he said, the allegations against Arsenault are unproven.

Pereira’s testimony was interrupted this month after falling and incurring a head injury. He is expected to reappear on the stand Oct. 28.