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Port of Montreal Strike: Current Status

Posted August 18, 2020

Negotiations between Port of Montreal longshore workers and the Maritime Employers Association (MEA) remain ongoing. In a statement released late Monday, federal Labour Minister Filomena Tassi advised that some progress had been made in the talks between the two sides.

The current labour action that started on August 10 follows a series of temporary strikes by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 375 over the past six weeks concerning working conditions at the port, particularly with respect to scheduling and “work-life balance” issues.

The striking longshoremen, foremen, and maintenance workers have been without a collective agreement for nearly two years since the last collective agreement expired on December 31, 2018.


Impact on Cargo Operations

According to a statement released yesterday by the Port of Montreal, it estimates that approximately 90,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) are now either stranded on its docks or aboard the fifteen or so container ships rerouted to other ports.

Additionally, it estimates that roughly 325,000 more tonnes of dry bulk could be impacted by the situation should it persist over the next few weeks.


Businesses and Supply Chains Affected

The port authority decried the timing of the strike, given the present economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. “A prolonged stoppage in port operations has major repercussions for Canadian businesses that depend on international trade and, ultimately, for the supply of goods and services to the public,” it said.

Approximately $100 billion in merchandise passes through the port each year, prompting concerns that the strike threatens the food, manufacturing, retail and auto industries, especially in Quebec and Ontario. Governments of both provinces have called on Ottawa to help resolve the labour dispute but have stopped short of demanding back-to-work legislation.

Already struggling to focus their efforts on recovery from the pandemic, business groups have been vocal in their frustration with the added expenses and disruption caused by the strike and have called for an immediate intervention by the federal authorities to facilitate and accelerate negotiations. 


Long-Term Concerns

In addition to the immediate hindrance to their operations, businesses also worry that the strike, along with other recent national supply chain disruptions such as the rail blockade earlier this year and a series of temporary strikes at the Port of Montreal could pose a real threat to competitiveness with the large hubs on the U.S. East Coast.

Similar reputational damage to Canada as a reliable international trading partner is also feared by manufacturers.

“If the government wants to attract advanced manufacturing investment for battery and electric vehicle manufacturing needed to support the transition to a lower carbon economy, a reliable and efficient logistics supply chain is essential,” said Pierre Gratton, President and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada, which is one of the port’s major customers.  


Need More Information?

To get more information regarding this ongoing labor dispute please check the Port of Montreal’s port’s website for the latest updates.

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