Longshore Workers at Port of Montreal Launch General Strike

On Monday morning, August 10, longshore workers at the Port of Montreal launched a general, unlimited strike as negotiations with their employer, Maritime Employers Association are deadlocked. The collective agreement of the 1,100 workers, who are members of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 375, expired at the end of 2018.

One of the employer's main demands is that longshore workers accept untenable working hours, as the workload at the port has drastically increased over the years. In an interview with the press, CUPE Local 375 negotiator Michael Murray explained:

"You Will Never Break Me"

"The longshoremen work 19 days out of 21 year-round. At one time, these schedules were feasible because the traffic in the port of Montreal allowed for paid days off within the 19 days. The longshoremen have to be available 24 hours a day, including weekends. The other side of the coin is that we have job security. The arrival of record year after record year in the port of Montreal has meant that the volume of work has increased and our people now work continuously 19 days out of 21. We have a new generation of longshoremen, who are young men and women who need to be taken care of, and they will not be able to endure this situation for years to come.

"We are looking at rearranging the hours where the employer would have some flexibility and our people would have a better work/life balance, and we've put forward a proposal that would achieve that. The employer agreed with the concept of rescheduling hours to provide flexibility for themselves but for the rest, they say they won't accept our proposal unless it is a net-zero proposal, one that is no cost to the employers. These are multi-billion dollar companies operating in the port. The small ones are billionaires. When we go from record years to record years, they cannot tell us at the negotiating table that our demands must be a net-zero. Our union has always fought for our workers, We want to improve the quality of life of our workers and at the same time we are ready to examine the employers' demand for flexibility. The employer wants to pick and choose what is convenient for them. That is why we are putting economic pressure on shipping companies."

One of the factors that pushed the workers to launch the strike is the fact that during the short-term legal walkouts that the workers have organized over the past six weeks the employer has retaliated by unilaterally modifying the working conditions of the workers, cutting overtime rates. The union also denounces the use of scabs by the employer to crush their strike.

Workers' Forum fully supports the just struggle of the longshore workers for their rights and calls upon all workers to stand firmly with them.

The Port of Montreal is the second largest port in Canada, after the Port of Vancouver, a diversified transshipment centre that handles all kinds of goods, containerized and non-containerized cargo, liquid bulk and dry bulk. The only container port in Quebec, it is a destination port served by the largest shipping lines in the world. It is also an intermodal hub with its own rail network dockside directly connected to Canada's two national rail networks, Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway. The Montreal Port Authority (MPA) also operates a Cruise Terminal and a Port Centre. According to the MPA, the port generates close to $2.6 billion yearly in Canadian GDP.

(Photos: CUPE 375)

This article was published in

Number 54 - August 13, 2020

Article Link:
Quebec: Longshore Workers at Port of Montreal Launch General Strike


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