Inside Logistics

Port of Montreal faces partial strike

Starting today union members will not work overtime during the week and won't work Saturdays and Sundays

April 13, 2021
by Emily Atkins & Transport Routier

The Port of Montreal is facing a partial strike situation as the longshore union, CUPE 375, sent a notice on Saturday. Starting Tuesday, longshoremen will go on overtime strike and will no longer extend shifts beyond the regular eight hours.

The union was responding to a notice from the Maritime Employers’ Association (MEA), in which it said it would remove the income guarantee and stop paying four hours that are not worked. The MEA said in a LinkedIn post that the move was in response to a “substantial 11 percent volume drop in March [at the port], caused by the uncertainty and anxiety triggered by the labour relations situation.”

The MEA also said it plans to “continue its efforts to conclude a negotiated collective agreement as soon as possible”.

“Last Friday, after a good week of negotiations where the work was going well, we were surprised to receive a notice from the employer that in 72 hours, that is to say from Tuesday, it was exercising the right to lockout, ” explained Michel Murray, CUPE union advisor.

In response to this notice, the Longshoremen’s Union responded on Saturday with a notice of a partial strike.

In addition, from Saturday April 17, the union will strike on Saturdays and Sundays for an unlimited period. Mondays to Fridays day, evening and night shifts will be worked as normal.

“In this way, we put pressure on the employer without disturbing the customers who are waiting for their goods too much. Quite frankly, we were surprised by the employer’s action. When the management party left the negotiating table on Friday, they gave no sign that they were going to do so. We still believe in negotiation and look forward to a return to the table,” Murray said.

“A new strike would be catastrophic and that everything must be done to prevent the situation of summer 2020 from repeating itself,” said Marc Cadieux, president and general manager of the Association du camionnage du Québec (ACQ), said.

“Every day, 2,500 trucks pass through the port of Montreal, which represents more than 2,400 containers per day,” Cadieux said in an interview with Transport Routier.

“The road freight transport industry generates tens of thousands of jobs in Greater Montreal, and represents 54 percent of the volume in tonnes handled in Quebec. The current situation at the Port of Montreal is already having negative consequences for the trucking industry. There is already a decrease in volumes and a diversion of goods to competing and more distant ports. These have direct and significant repercussions for the economy of Greater Montreal, for Canadian businesses that depend on international trade and, ultimately, for the supply of goods and products to citizens. Our members anticipate job losses as the shutdown of port operations forces carriers to suspend operations, downsizing staff, including many drivers. ”

Cadieux is calling on federal labour minister Filomena Tassi to intervene immediately to prevent a situation that would have economic consequences for Quebec and Canada.

“The economic contribution of the logistics industry to Greater Montreal is immense,” he concluded.

A stakeholder group made up of the ACQ, the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM), the Quebec Employers Council (CPQ), the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), the Federation of Quebec Chambers of Commerce (FCCQ) and Manufacturiers et Exportateurs du Québec (MEQ) met Monday to establish the intervention strategy to be adopted. 

With nearly 122,000 members in Quebec, CUPE represents the Union of longshoremen of the Port of Montreal as well as the stevedores of the ports of Quebec, Trois-Rivières, Sorel, Matane, and the stevedores of Arrimage du Saint-Laurent (Baie- Comeau), for a total of some 1,545 members.