Violence erupts near Montreal port amid strike, four terminals remain closed Friday

by Christopher Reynolds THE CANADIAN PRESS

MONTREAL – Montreal police are investigating a confrontation between dockworkers and port managers that erupted in violence Wednesday night amid a longshoremen strike.

Police received a call at around 7 p.m. that a crowd of dockworkers had threatened and attacked Montreal port executives and their security guards near the Olympic Stadium, said police spokeswoman Caroline Chevrefils.

“According to that information…the strikers made some threats and also harassed the executives. There were some assaults and also some thefts,” Chevrefils said.

The longshoremen had left the scene by the time police arrived to take statements, with no charges laid so far, she said.

As a result of the violence, the port issued a statement Thursday night stating: “Termont and MGT have advised there will be no operations in any of their terminals (Cast, Maisonneuve, Racine and Viau Terminals) on Friday, July 31st. This mutual decision was taken by the two operating partners in order to ensure the health and safety of all the employees working in their facilities.”

Operations will resume on Saturday, August 1st from 7:00 a.m. in these four container terminals. In addition, truck gate operations will be open on Saturday, August 1st and Sunday, August 2nd from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

All other Port of Montreal’s terminals which were initially impacted by the 4-day strike were to be operational as of July 31st at 7:00 a.m.

The Wednesday confrontation occurred as about two-dozen managers were exiting a shuttle bus after a day spent moving containers at the Termont terminal when more than 50 dockworkers approached them in the stadium parking lot, said Martin Tessier, head of the Maritime Employers Association.

“We did train some management people (to handle containers). We didn’t take people from outside to do the work, but nonetheless the union was not happy,” Tessier said.

“It went bad,” he said, adding that some wallets and cellphones were stolen.

“There is no provocation in the world that deserves any intimidation, physically or verbally.”

The altercation Wednesday followed strikers’ actions two days earlier to stall the exit of managers from the Termont terminal, Tessier said, leading to the decision to arrange bus transport between the port entrance and the Olympic Stadium parking lot some three kilometres away.

The strike, launched Monday by more than 1,000 longshoremen, foremen and maintenance workers and initially planned for four days, revolves around scheduling as well as working hours and technology.

Michel Murray, a spokesman for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said Monday that dockworkers routinely work 19 days out of 21 due to heavy traffic through the port.

He said deploying executives to handle tasks traditionally carried out by longshoremen was an “affront” by the company that amounted to “an act of war.”

The dockworkers have been without a collective agreement for nearly two years.

CUPE did not respond Thursday to requests for comment.