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Canadian Federal Government Will Intervene in Montreal Dock Strike

Montreal dockworkers strike
Picket lines went up this monring in the general strike at the Port of Montreal (Syndicat des débardeurs - SCFP section locale 375 photo)

Published Apr 26, 2021 5:26 PM by The Maritime Executive

Canada’s federal government announced that it plans to intervene to end the dockworkers' strike in Montreal. Saying that the strike has the potential to last for a long time and negatively impact the Canadian economy, the federal government filed a notice of its intent to intervene, which is different from August 2020 when the federal government declined to become involved in the long-running dispute between the union and the employment association representing the container terminal operators.

After filing notice on Friday of their intent to begin a general strike, picket lines officially went up at the Port of Montreal at 7 am this morning marking the second general strike at the port in eight months. Before the strike in August 2020, there has also been short work interruption and limited strikes since the union’s collective bargaining agreement expired in December 2018. After a truce expired in March 2021, the union began refusing overtime and weekend work in an effort to pressure the Maritime Employers Association to resume collective bargaining.

Yesterday morning, Minister of Labour Filomena Tassi filed a notice of the federal government’s intent to push an act through parliament to order the immediate return to work at the port. “The current work stoppage at the Port is causing significant and potentially long-lasting harm to Canada’s economy, and is adding stress to supply chains already under significant strain due to COVID-19,” tweeted the minister. She said that the parties appeared to be far apart with little hope of a quick settlement. By filing the notice, the federal government is expediting the process and could push the proposed act forward as early as Wednesday.

 

 

The MBA says that it needs greater flexibility from the dockworkers to respond to changes in port operations and global shipping. The union has said in addition to wage issues it needs improvements to the work schedule for the dockworkers. They argue that the current schedule keeps the longshoremen on the job too many days in a row without enough time for their family life.

The mediator for the situation called both local 375 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and representatives of the MBA back to the negotiating table this morning. Late today the negotiating committee from Syndicat des débardeurs - SCFP section locale 375 tweeted a message saying that they were still at the talks and more information would follow. 

This came after union representative Michael Murray told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation this morning, "I have no hope there will be a resolution today. The employer will just sit on their hands and wait to see the content of Minister Tassi's special legislation. Murphy accused the employees and local officials of using “the nuclear option,” in their talks by turning to the federal government for intervention. 

The Port of Montreal issued a statement saying it welcomed the intervention in the dispute. They cited a recent economic study that found that a disruption of port activities incurs a loss of $10 million to $25 million per day for the Canadian economy. They reported that 80,000 TEUs had been grounded or rerouted and approximately 20 vessels diverted during last summer’s strike.