Montreal longshoremen strike over unsafe schedules

By Pierre-Luc Filion
July 27, 2020

MONTREAL — Over 1,000 longshoremen at the port here, members of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 375, carried out a 40-hour strike beginning July 2 against Montreal Gateway Terminals Partnership bosses. They targeted the Cast and Racine terminals, shutting down 30% of port operations.

The workers, who have a lengthy list of demands, have been without a union contract since December 2018. A central issue is scheduling. Strikers told this Militant worker-correspondent that they are forced to work for 19 days straight on call, followed by only two days off.

“There are many similarities between your fight and our strike for safety last November,” this worker-correspondent, a former Canadian National rail worker told Local 375 union President Martin LaPierre on the picket line. “Uncertain and changing schedules means fatigue, health and safety hazards and difficulties having family time and a social life.”

“They try to say it is the workers who are the bad guys, but they make profits on our backs,” said LaPierre.

Ten years ago, the port bosses locked out the workers after the union authorized a strike following an 18-month impasse in contract talks. The Maritime Employers Association has tried twice — unsuccessfully — to get Ottawa to take away the workers’ right to strike by declaring their jobs are an “essential service.”

Strikers on the line also discussed the need for workers to have our own party, a labor party, based on a mobilized labor movement that fights for what working people need. “I think having such a labor party is necessary and possible, we are the only ones who know what is in our interest,” striker Janico Tremblay said.

Many drivers honked in solidarity as they drove by the picket line.

The short strike was called to put pressure on the bosses without provoking strikebreaking action by the federal government, workers said. After it began, the port bosses began negotiations with union officials, but as of July 8 no results had been announced.