Business groups call for end to Montréal port strike

by Inside Logistics Online Staff

MONTRÉAL –Five major business organizations called for immediate intervention by the federal government in the ongoing strike at the Port of Montreal.

The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montréal (CCMM), the Conseil du patronat du Québec (CPQ), the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec (FCCQ), the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) and the Manufacturiers et Exportateurs du Québec (MEQ) expressed concern about the impact that the indefinite general strike launched today by Longshoremen’s Union CUPE Local 375 at the Port of Montréal will have on businesses and the economy in Montréal, Québec and Eastern Canada.

A joint statement issued by the groups has garnered more than 500 signatures from business leaders across al sectors throughout Ontario and Quebec. The full statement (in French) and signatories can be seen here.

In the view of these organizations, the strike is taking the economy hostage at a time when every effort should be focused instead on the recovery after an unprecedented economic crisis. At a joint press conference today they called for immediate intervention by the Government of Canada so that normal operations can resume as soon as possible.

“The effects of a prolonged strike on Montréal’s and Québec’s economy will be devastating. With every passing day, the strike will further slow the recovery of our economy. We will lose opportunities for future growth,” said Michel Leblanc, president and CEO of the CCMM.

Leblanc highlighted to risk that ocean carriers diverting their ships to other ports – such as Quebec, New Brunswick and New York – might never return to Montréal.

“The Port connects us to over 140 countries and 110 million consumers. It has to run smoothly, not only for our businesses to make money but also to maintain Montréal’s and Québec’s reputation as a place of business. We must act now. We need to impose arbitration and make everyone go back to work,” he said.

“This is very bad news, and it will have huge impacts. Think about Québec’s independent food producers, or about supply chain issues: the impacts will be widespread throughout the regions and they will have terrible consequences,” added Karl Blackburn, President and CEO of the CPQ.

The groups emphasized that the labour dispure was having a “serious impact” on the Québec economy. “With the economic recovery still fragile, an indefinite strike will have disastrous consequences for the thousands of Québec businesses that depend on the Port for their supplies. We repeat that it is urgent for the federal government and the Minister of Labour to intervene and ensure a return to normal operations as soon as possible,” said Charles Milliard, president and CEO of the FCCQ.

Small and medium-sized businesses are considered to be at high risk, said François Vincent, CFIB vice-president for Québec. He pointed out that even though 75 percent of Quebec SMEs have re-opened after the Covid-19 lockdowns, only a third are back to their regular sales levels.

“Adding obstacles that make their products more difficult to get will not only slow down production, it will have a negative effect on sales. This could not have come at a worse time for small and medium-sized businesses, particularly those in the manufacturing, agriculture, wholesale and retail sectors,” Vincent said.

“Given the importance of the Port of Montréal, businesses throughout Canada may be affected by this strike. We need the Government of Canada to intervene and keep the port running.”

“This strike is greatly weakening the export capacity and supply chains of Québec manufacturing businesses just when they have suffered so many recent blows: the rail blockade, the COVID-19 pandemic and the imposition of tariffs on aluminum. It is crucial for port activities to start up again quickly if our regions are to regain their economic vitality,” added Véronique Proulx, president and CEO of the MEQ.