Port of Montreal strike: Feds poised to intervene as work stoppage begins

A few of the Port of Montreal and the city skyline behind it.

As longshoremen began a general strike at the Port of Montreal on Monday, Canada’s federal government was moving quickly to intervene to force them back to work, citing the disruption to the supply chain.   

The 1,150 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local (CUPE) 375 began the unlimited strike at 7 a.m. at Canada’s second-busiest port. But it does not appear that it will last long.

Federal labor minister Filomena Tassi on Sunday said in a series of tweets that the government is introducing legislation to end the strike despite its “least favored option.”

“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 #COVID19,” Tassi tweeted. 

CUPE 375 announced on Friday that its longshoremen will begin an unlimited general strike in response to port employers reducing regular schedules. The union and the Maritime Employers Association (MEA) have been engaged in a tit for tat since a seven-month truce — which ended an 11-day strike in August — expired in March.

The union began a limited strike — confined to overtime and weekends — in response to the MEA suspending guaranteed limited pay. The employers said it was a necessary cost-cutting measure in response to a drop in cargo volumes, brought on by the labor dispute. 

The two sides have struggled to come to terms on a new contract for the longshoremen since the last one expired in 2018. 

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