Canadian federal government will intervene in Montreal dock strike

Canada’s federal government has said that it plans to intervene to end the dockworkers’ strike in Montreal, which expanded in scope at the start of the week from an overtime and weekend working ban into a full blown all-out strike.

The federal government said that the strike had the potential to last for a long time and to impact the Canadian economy. It had therefore filed a notice of its intent to intervene.

The industrial action re-emerged earlier this month after the expiration of a truce signed in August 2020 between the dockworkers and their employers in the container section of the Port of Montreal. On that occasion the federal government declined to become involved.

The dockworkers’ union filed notice last Friday April 23rd of their intention to begin a general strike. Picket lines officially went up at the Port of Montreal this week.

The union’s collective bargaining agreement expired in December 2018.

Minister of Labour Filomena Tassi said that “the current work stoppage at the Port is causing significant and potentially long-lasting harm to Canada’s economy, and is adding stress to supply chains already under significant strain due to Covid-19”.

Tassi noted that the parties appeared to be far apart, with little prospect of a speedy agreement.

Employer MBA insists that it needs greater flexibility from the dockworkers to respond to changes in port operations and global shipping. Meanwhile the union has said that it is in disagreement over wage issues and the long-standing work schedule for the dockworkers, which the union says belongs to another era. They argue that the current schedule keeps the longshoremen on the job too many days in a row, without enough time for their family life or a decent work-life balance.

The mediator for the situation called local 375 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and representatives of the MBA back to the negotiating table earlier this week.

The Port of Montreal welcomed the federal intervention in the dispute.