It was a day of angry rallies by construction union members day, who faced off with riot police outside of the National Assembly on Monday. 

Treasury Board President Pierre Moreau said the government had no choice but to call for a swift end to the labour dispute.

"Do you honestly think Quebec can afford to lose $45 million per day? The answer is clearly no, so we have to take responsibility, and that’s what we’re doing today" he told reporters as he walked between Sureté du Quebec vehicles on his way into the National Assembly.

Police were gathered outside the building in Quebec City in order to ward off a confrontation with protesting construction workers, some of whom were at the National Assembly as dawn broke.

Busloads of construction workers met in Montreal and other cities Monday in order to take their protest to the National Assembly.

After the legislation was presented during the lunch hour the protest grew rowdy, and police warned onlookers and journalists to stand back.

Riot police, who had been stationed around the National Assembly all day, stood guard as striking construction workers jeered and chanted.

One of the province’s most recognizable union bosses, Bernard ‘Rambo’ Gauthier, brought his booming voice outside the National Assembly, as workers chanted his name.

Gauthier expressed frustration for the workers over their salaries and employers’ demands for forced overtime on weekends.

“It's important to be here to make a statement for our rights,” said one protester.


Riot squad on standby as angry construction workers continue to protest.   @CTVMontreal


The strike began last Wednesday, and although the government had leaned on construction workers and employers to work out a deal, negotiations collapsed on Sunday.

Opposition leader Jean-Francois Lisée said the government had mismanaged the negotiations between private companies and the unions.

"It's a mess," he said. “We're here today under the Couillard government and zero sectors have settled, so clearly they have mismanaged their responsibility to bring people to the table and to an agreement.”

The main sticking points were salary and work-life balance.

A final offer presented by the construction companies included a 1.9 per cent wage increase over four years and several concessions including a four-day-work week.

It was rejected Sunday afternoon by the union executives.

"It's a deception for us," said Eric Coté of the Quebec Construction Association. "We thought we could make a deal. And now our safety is in the hands of the government. We have to wait [Monday] in Quebec City and see what the government decides."

Labour Minister Dominique Vien prepared last week for a collapse in talks, although she has yet to say whether the special legislation would impose binding arbitration on both parties or draw up a new non-negotiable contract.

The parties will have five more months for mediation. If no agreement is reached by the end of October, it will go to arbitration.

Unions are displeased, saying they're prepared to fight it in court because it will give the arbitrator too much power.

“The government imposed some conditions and the one with the arbitration, it's going to give orientations to the arbitrator that for us is unacceptable,” said union spokesperson Michel Trepanier.

Four years ago the Marois government imposed back-to-work legislation on construction workers following a ten-day strike. Earlier this year Quebec used this kind of legislation to order striking notaries and lawyers back to work.

- With files from The Canadian Press