Montreal port workers fight for new contract, safe work schedules

By Joe Young
August 10, 2020

MONTREAL — For the second time this month, some 1,125 longshoremen at the Port of Montreal — members of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 375 — have gone on strike in their ongoing fight for a new contract. A central issue in their battle with the Maritime Employers Association is over exhausting and dangerous scheduling and hours of work.

As the four-day strike began, union spokesman Michel Murray told a press conference July 27 that workers can be forced to work 19 days out of 21 all year-round. “We have a new generation of longshoremen, young men and women,” he said. “We can’t make them do that.”

The strikers have been without a contract since December 2018. The vote in favor of walking out was 99.5 percent.

The bosses had appealed to the government in October 2018 to abolish longshoremen’s right to strike, claiming their working is “essential” to Canada’s economy. Only this June, did the Canadian Labour Relations Board finally rule that the workers have the right to strike. Still, they ordered workers to maintain services for grain, bulk liquid cargo and Oceanex, a service that supplies goods to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Trying to turn workers against the strike, port authority officials called on the strikers “to ensure public health and safety” and stay on the job. And the Canadian Press backed the bosses, complaining strikers were “throwing a potential wrench into the economic recovery.”

This fight is in the interests of all labor.