The Canadian government has passed legislation which makes it illegal for dockworkers at the Port of Montreal to continue their strike, although the local union is gearing up for a court battle.
According to the port authority, the decision means that the operational and commercial uncertainty related to labour relations between the dockworkers’ union and the Maritime Employers Association (MEA) is now over.
It noted that the legislation will lead to the establishment of a new collective agreement between the parties, with no possibility of work stoppages.
Martin Imbleau, president and CEO of the Montreal Port Authority said: “This new turning point lets the Port of Montreal regain stability and the capability to fulfill its strategic role as a public service without long-term interruptions. This role is especially important while we are still in the middle of a pandemic.
“Our priority now is to plan for the resumption of port operations and to ensure efficient and seamless service not only to local importers and exporters, but also to our ultimate client, the public, as quickly as possible.”
However, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) believes that Bill C-29 is unconstitutional and has declared its intention to challenge the bill in the courts, claiming it infringes upon fundamental rights.
CUPE National President Mark Hancock said: “The Liberals haven’t just failed dockworkers in Montreal, they’ve failed all working people in Canada.
“Prime Minister Trudeau just sent a loud and clear message to every employer in the country: don’t bother bargaining in good faith with your workers, because if things get tough, we’ll be there to bail you out.”
The workers are members of CUPE Local 375, which represents 1,150 dockworkers at the Port of Montreal. The union went on strike, claiming that the MEA would not honour job security provisions in the collective agreement, and extend workers’ shifts by up to 100 minutes.
An average of CA$275m (US$225m) worth of goods move through the port daily, ranging from agri-food products, pharmaceuticals and construction equipment to flagship products exported by local companies.
However, the recent partial strike and unlimited general strike episodes seriously affected cargo handling in the container and dry bulk sectors.
As of May 1, ten vessels were about to call at the Port of Montreal and close to 20,000 teu were currently on port territory following the recent work stoppages.
The resumption of operations and the return to the usual smooth flow of goods will take several days of work by port workers and supply chain stakeholders, added the port authority.
Clients waiting to import or export goods can expect delays in the coming weeks, it noted.