Canada’s freight forwarders expressed frustration at the growing backlog of cargo resulting from the partial strike at the Port of Montreal.
“In the same week the federal government committed tens of billions to stimulate the economy, a labour dispute in one of Canada’s most critical transportation hubs is acting to suppress economic growth,” said Bruce Rodgers, executive director of the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association.
The businesses and citizens of Montreal and Quebec have become pawns in a destructive game played by the parties in the Port of Montreal’s ongoing labour dispute, Rodgers added.
Since April 13 longshore workers at the port, who are represented by CUPE 375, have refused overtime and are not working weekends. The partial strike is a response 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 dispute is part of a longstanding negotiation between the union and the MEA after a 10-day strike last year. The union representing 1,125 longshoremen and the employer concluded a seven-month truce last August. It expired March 20.
Talks stumbled last year mainly over the issue of working hours. The collective agreement expired on Dec. 31, 2018.
The slowdown over the last two weeks has led to a growing backlog at the Port. Martin Imbleau, the CEO of the Port of Montreal said the port is facing a 30 percent cut in capacity.
“Even if the dispute was resolved today, we’d still see serious consequences for people and businesses of all kinds,” Rodgers said. “Already shippers are steering traffic away from Montreal, a trend which may not be easily reversed.”
Rodgers said the fragile economic recovery is imperiled by the labour disruptions. “This is a critical time for Canada and the Canadian government needs to take action. We are calling on government to intervene to ensure the situation doesn’t get any worse, but instead gets resolved immediately.”