Toronto, April 13, 2021
The following message was issued by the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association (CIFFA) on Tuesday, April 13, 2021:
Updates from Both Sides on Port of Montreal Labour Situation
The Maritime Employers Association issued the following notice on Monday.
On Saturday evening, the union executive of the Port of Montreal Longshoremen issued a 72-hour notice of an indefinite strike to the Maritime Employers Association.
The planned pressure tactics, namely the stopping of overtime work, of docking activities, of training and of weekend work, are being presented as a response to the cessation of payment for the hours that are not worked.
This indefinite strike places the Montreal port industry in a precarious situation. This decision by the union will very quickly cause significant congestion and will have a major impact on the fluidity of the logistics chain, therefore undermining the economic recovery in Quebec and Canada.
The MEA is currently evaluating all of its options. We are eager for a speedy settlement and remain ready to continue the negotiations as soon as we are summoned by the mediators.
CUPE Local 375 held a news conference yesterday, in French only. Its main points were as follows:
- Union head Michel Murray said the union was surprised that, after four days of intense negotiations last week, the MEA issued the statement over the weekend of a 72-hour notice to the union of removing the income guarantee and stopping paying the hours that are not worked, in order to mitigate the adverse effects of an 11% volume drop in March, which the union disputes.
- Murray disputed the argument that urgently needed pandemic-related goods are transiting the Port of Montreal and stated that vaccines are transported by air and for the most part via Pearson International Airport.
- Murray noted rising costs to the worldwide transport of containers – and "exploding rates," as well as the profitability of ocean carriers, saying it's not the longshoremen who are causing this rise in costs to industry.
- The union's last contract was put together in 2013 following difficult economic circumstances (evolving after the Great Recession); considering ocean carrier profitability today, the circumstances during negotiation are very different.
- The union says it prefers and has always preferred to return to the negotiating table.
- During the Q&A period at the end of the session, Murray told reporters that manufacturers (industry) use the Port of Montreal because it is cost-effective and the shortest distance from Europe to North America. Instead of writing to elected officials or to the Minister of Labour in Quebec, he said industry should write to the employer (MEA) to ask them to come to the table with their "big boy pants on," and to negotiate properly instead of throwing fuel on the fire and scaring the entire population.
- The union says that, while there may be delays to picking up containers, there won't necessarily be an impact from their action. It's not going to impact Monday-to-Friday pickups.
- The union's two main issues are work-life balance accommodation in the contract and hours of work.
Both sides will meet today with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service: the MEA at 10:00 am, the union separately at 2:00 pm.
Further to the above, on Monday April 12, CIFFA sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, urging the government to take steps to ensure the threatening dispute at the Port of Montreal does not hit the Canadian economy.
For more information, please call David Lychek, Manager – Ocean & Air Services at (905) 882-4880, ext. 1207.