Members of dockworkers’ union CUPE Local 375 will start an unlimited general strike at Canada’s Port of Montreal at 7:00 am ET on Monday morning. In effect, though, because the union had already refused weekend work as part of a partial strike starting on 17 April, strike action will have stopped work at the port on Friday.
Mediation is scheduled to begin at 9:00 am.
The Government of Canada issued a notice paper on Sunday to inform that, on Monday morning at 11:00 am, a bill in the name of the Minister of Labour, entitled An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of operations at the Port of Montreal, will be introduced for debate. According to CBC News, “The notice paper gives the government the option of tabling legislation quickly and bypassing several of the usual legislative steps.”
The union has been without a contract since 2018. After a 12-day strike in August 2020, the dockworkers and the Maritime Employers Association (MEA) agreed to a 7-month truce, which ended on 20 March. On 21 March, the union rejected an offer from the MEA. Negotiations resumed in early April, but relations eroded.
On 10 April, the MEA, citing an 11% volume drop in March it says was caused by uncertainty related to the labour situation, gave notice of its intention to remove union members’ income guarantee. The union responded later that day with 72 hours’ notice that members would discontinue working overtime and weekend hours.
Meetings with the federal mediators on 13 and 15 April resulted in another offer from the MEA, and significant back-and-forth public sniping. On 22 April, the MEA indicated that it would move to regular schedules to mitigate the effects of the partial strike, which triggered the union’s strike notice.
In a press release on Friday, the Montreal Port Authority (MPA) said, “the episodes totalling 19 days of strike action in the summer of 2020 had significant effects on the economy, and 20 vessels had to be diverted. In total, 80,000 TEUs containing goods we consume every day were either diverted to competing ports or grounded.”
The port, which handles C$275 million worth of goods every day, has been affected for the last few weeks by carriers rerouting some vessels to other ports in case of a strike in Montreal. Carriers are also implementing new fees related to rerouting. Maersk, for example, has announced an inland service fee to cover “extra inland costs of port diversion.”
Liquid bulk handling, Oceanex service (Bickerdike Terminal) and the grain terminal (Viterra) will not be affected by the strike.