Longshoremen at the Port of Montreal plan to begin an indefinite general strike on Monday after their union issued a 72-hour notice to employers.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees Local (CUPE) 375 announced the move on Friday, less than two weeks after beginning a partial strike.
The union, which represents over 1,100 longshoremen, said the full strike came in response to the Maritime Employers Association changing its regular schedules — beginning Monday — on the heels of withdrawing guaranteed minimum pay.
“It was not our decision to shoot first,” CUPE 375 spokesperson Michel Murray said during a news conference Friday.
Last week the longshoremen began a partial strike, refusing to work overtime and on weekends. It came in response to the MEA suspending guaranteed minimum pay.
Port employers: Union’s strike call ‘very disappointing’
The MEA in a statement Friday said the union’s decision to call a general strike “is very disappointing while the fluidity of the logistic chain remains crucial to the economic recovery.”
“The MEA is currently evaluating all of its options,” the MEA said. “We are eager for a speedy settlement.”
The MEA has said the measures were in response to a slowdown in port business resulting from the labor dispute.
The Port of Montreal, the second busiest in Canada, has already taken a hit from the dispute — posting an 11% drop in volumes in March.
The longshoremen went on strike for 11 days in 2020. It ended with an eight-month truce.
They have been without a contract since 2018. The union says it it seeking improvements in working conditions.
The union and the MEA have continued to negotiate with federal mediators since the strike truce ended in March.
The full strike will increase pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to bring forth back-to-work legislation.
“I think the government is very likely to step in here,” Sara Slinn, a Canadian labor expert and professor at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University in Toronto, told FreightWaves last week. “When it comes to back-to-work legislation, all the ducks are lining up for that. That may explain why the union stopped short of calling a full strike. They’re walking quite a tightrope.”