Taking the government’s “least desired course of action,” federal Labour Minister Filomena Tassi tabled legislation today that would force the Port of Montreal’s 1,150 dockworkers to end their general strike, which began Monday morning.
A notice of closure was given in Parliament this afternoon to end debate on Bill C29, an Act to Provide for the Resumption and Continuation of Operations at the Port of Montreal.
If passed, the legislation “would end the ongoing work stoppage at the Port of Montreal, and provide the Maritime Employers Association and the Syndicat des débardeurs – CUPE Local 375 with a neutral mediation-arbitration process to resolve their disputes,” according to a backgrounder on the bill.
Additionally, the bill would extend the parties’ expired collective agreement until a new one comes into effect and prohibit any further work stoppages until such time as the extended collective agreement expires.
In a statement, Tassi said while the Trudeau government remains committed to the collective bargaining process and the “important role that unions play in standing up for hard working Canadians,” seeing that negotiations between the two parties remain deadlocked “and a work stoppage is causing significant economic harm to Canadians” therefore “the government must act.”
Operations Halted Since Friday
Picket lines officially went up at the Port of Montreal Monday morning, continuing the work stoppage that began Friday as part of the partial strike that involved not working weekends.
“I have no hope there will be a resolution today,” CUPE representative Michael Murray told reporters. “The employer will just sit on their hands and wait to see the content of Minister Tassi’s special legislation.” Murphy accused the government of “unbalancing relations” between the two sides after having resorted “to the atomic bomb.”
The Port of Montreal issued a statement saying it welcomed the intervention in the dispute. Citing the harmful economic impact of past strike actions, Port Authority President and CEO Martin Imbleau said “it is mission-critical that the Port of Montreal be able to fully and sustainably play its strategic role as an economic engine at the service of the local population and SMEs without interruption.”
Encouraging both parties “to reach a negotiated agreement immediately,” Tassi ended her statement noting that “nothing in the legislation prevents the parties from concluding an agreement on their own terms at any point in this process.”
It is expected that C29 will receive Royal Assent later this week and that operations will only resume once the legislation becomes effective on the following day.
The Port Authority has warned clients to expect delays in the delivery of their goods for the next few days and even weeks.