Port of Montreal longshoremen to vote on final offer Sunday
MONTREAL -- The parties involved in a seven-month truce at the Port of Montreal have not reached an agreement to date, but the 1,125 longshoremen will vote on a final offer on Sunday.
The seven-month truce was reached between the Maritime Employers Association and the FTQ-affiliated Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) local last August.
The 1,125 longshoremen will be called to vote to end the truce.
However, there was no agreement reached between the parties, even after months of discussions, with the help of three mediators, and even intensive mediation sessions. Instead, the longshoremen will decide on a final and comprehensive offer.
It is not clear whether the union will recommend that its members accept the final offer or whether it will remain neutral on the offer, leaving it to its members to decide after the details of the offer are presented.
The union and the employers' association agreed not to talk to the media during the truce.
It was agreed that at the end of the truce, the parties would regain their right to lock out and strike.
The issue of working hours was at the heart of the dispute.
The negotiation was particularly long and difficult. The first longshoremen strike vote was in Dec. 2018 and has been taken up on several occasions since, given the delays involved.
The longshoremen walked out for about 10 days last August before reaching the current truce.
The Maritime Employers Association tried to prevent the strike by asking the Canada Industrial Relations Board -- an administrative tribunal -- to declare all longshore operations to be essential services.
But the CIRB ruled otherwise, after holding 25 days of hearings over several months in 2019.
It accepted that a strike would have economic and financial impacts, but "there is no direct evidence from which the Board can conclude that these inconveniences would cause an imminent and serious risk to the health and safety of the public" -- and that is the federal definition of "essential services."
The CIRB said that the right to strike is protected by the Labour Code and that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2015 that this right enjoys constitutional protection.
The Port of Montreal is of vital economic importance, which is of considerable concern to the companies that depend on it.
Premier Francois Legault described it as "the economic lung of Quebec and even Ontario" last summer.
-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published March 17, 2021.