On the Picket Line

Montreal longshore workers fight for safety on the job

By Joe Young
April 12, 2021

MONTREAL — By an almost unanimous vote March 21 longshore workers at the Port of Montreal rejected the latest “final” concession contract demands by the Maritime Employers Association. The online strike authorization vote by members of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 375 was 1,020 to 2, with one abstention. Some 1,125 longshore workers are employed at the port.

A central issue is unsafe work schedules imposed by the bosses, where workers are forced to work 19 days out of 21. Union members going into work March 22 told the Militant  that this schedule is dangerous and wreaks havoc with their lives.

The vote came at the end of a seven-month truce agreed to by the union and the employers last August, after workers had gone on strike for 12 days over the work schedule, job security and other issues. The strike won widespread support among working people.

The unionists have been without a contract since December 2018. At that time they voted to strike but were blocked when the bosses went to court seeking to deny them this right on the grounds their labor was an “essential service.” After months of hearings that stayed any strike action, the court rejected the bosses’ motion.

The union has called on the Maritime Employers Association to resume negotiations. Its strike mandate expires April 15.

The bosses have launched a campaign in the media against the union and the workers. “The cost to the economy at this point when we are still being so badly affected by COVID would simply be too great,” Canadian Chamber of Commerce President Perrin Beatty told the media. Ships are being rerouted to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“Ottawa Ready to Force a Return to Work” headlined a March 23 article in the Montreal daily La Presse. The paper claimed the federal government was discussing imposing a back-to-work order if there is a strike.