As longshoremen began a general strike at the Port of Montreal on Monday, Canada’s federal government was moving quickly to intervene to force them back to work, citing the disruption to the supply chain.
The 1,150 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local (CUPE) 375 began the unlimited strike at 7 a.m. at Canada’s second-busiest port. As a result, all cargo operations at the port have shut down except for liquid bulk, Oceanex service and the Viterra grain terminal.
But it does not appear that it will last long.
The federal government issued a notice that it plans to introduce legislation to end the strike. The bill, titled “An Act to Provide for the Resumption and Continuation of Operations at the Port of Montreal,” could go before lawmakers as early as Tuesday.
Filomena Tassi, the federal labor minister, on Sunday said in a series of tweets that the legislation is the government’s “least favored option.”
“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 #COVID19,” Tassi tweeted.
10,000 TEUs grounded from partial strike: Montreal port authority
The Port of Montreal has already taken a hit from a partial strike — confined to overtime and weekends — since April 13. The port authority said nearly 10,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) have been grounded, with delays in rail operations and impacts to vessels en route to the port.
“It is mission-critical that the Port of Montreal be able to fully and sustainably play its strategic role as an economic engine at the service of the local population and SMEs without interruption,” Martin Imbleau, Montreal Port Authority president and CEO, said in a statement Sunday.
CUPE 375 announced on Friday that its longshoremen would begin an unlimited general strike in response to port employers reducing regular schedules. The union and the Maritime Employers Association (MEA) have been engaged in a tit for tat since a seven-month truce — which ended an 11-day strike in August — expired in March.
The union began a partial strike in response to the MEA suspending guaranteed limited pay. The employers said it was a necessary cost-cutting measure in response to a drop in cargo volumes, brought on by the labor dispute.
The two sides have struggled to come to terms on a new contract for the longshoremen since the last one expired in 2018.
While the details of the talks have been confidential, the main issues include working conditions and work-life balance. The union and MEA were continuing negotiations Monday morning.