The dockworkers’ unlimited general strike that began on Monday morning at the Port of Montreal, Canada’s second-largest port, may be brought to an end by back-to-work legislation tabled by the federal government. A bil was due to be debated on Tuesday in the House of Commons. If passed, the bill allows for the bypassing of some of the usual legislative steps to ensure a quick response to the labour situation.
In the meantime, the Maritime Employers Association (MEA) and the longshoremen’s union CUPE Local 375 continue to meet with mediators.
On Tuesday, Canada’s Minister of Labour Filomena Tassi said in a release, “The current work stoppage at the Port … is disrupting supply chains that have already been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Tassi outlined the significant support the government has provided for more than 2-1/2 years to help the two sides reach a new agreement, including over 100 days of bargaining mediated by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. She said, “there is no indication the parties will be able to reach a negotiated agreement,” and that, “regrettably, the government must now pursue its least-desired course of action.”
Bill C-29, in addition to ending the work stoppage, would establish a neutral mediation-arbitration process to resolve the issues in dispute between the parties and conclude a new collective agreement.
For the legislation to pass, the minority Liberal government will require the support of at least one other party. The New Democrats and the Bloc Québécois have said they will not support the bill, but the Conservative Party plans to study the text and talk with stakeholders before making a decision.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is calling for swift passage of the back-to-work legislation, saying, “The Port of Montreal is an essential contributor to Canada’s trade with the world. A labour stoppage would not only prevent goods from passing through the port but would also create congestion at other ports, causing bottlenecks at key points of entry for Canadian businesses.”
Cargo diversion to other ports began last month, as shippers and carriers sought to avoid impacts of a potential strike. Canada’s two major railways, CP Rail and CN Rail, are not accepting export containers scheduled for the Port of Montreal until the strike is over.
Hapag-Lloyd reported yesterday that it has three ships waiting at anchor at Escoumins, east of the Port of Montreal.