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Standoff in Port of Montreal Strike

By: 
John Bell with files from Deborah Murray

August 29, 2020

After 2 weeks on the picket line, around 1,100 members of Syndicat des débardeurs du port de Montréal (CUPE 375) called a truce in their fight with the Maritime Employers Association.

 “La trêve de 7 mois au Port de Montréal, va juste servir l'association des boss à se réorganiser pour la prochaine  menace,” one worker wrote on a strike chat site. The danger is the bosses will be readier after the 7-month truce.

The Montreal longshore workers handle $75 Billion worth of merchandise each year. Montreal is the second busiest port in Canada, crucial to lumber and steel exports to Europe. 

These workers have been without a contract for almost 2 years. Wages are a contentious issue, but scheduling improvements are the top demand. Workers are expected to be on call 19 out of every 21 day cycle. They point out that makes any balance between family and work life impossible.

Typically, the shipping bosses appealed to their political friends for help. Both Doug Ford’s Ontario Tories and Francois Legault’s CAQ were eager to help. But already balancing the risks of minority government and smarting from scandals, the federal Liberal government resisted the call to introduce back-to-work legislation.

The strike was the second stoppage in a month. It was intended to last 96 hours but the longshore workers stayed on the line. They were furious that Termont Montreal Inc., one of the biggest shipping companies was caught using “managers” as scabs.

“This is a major affront to us. That’s the first time in forty years I’ve witnessed such a lack of respect shown to the longshore workers. We will come up with a response commensurate with this provocation,” warned CUPE representative Michel Murray.

But it will take more than tough talk to beat back an employer bent on driving down living standards. Anger and solidarity are needed, and the workers too have those 7 months to organize resistance.

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