Threat of Renewed Strike Action at Port of Montreal
February 23, 2021
Shippers are beginning to make alternative routing arrangements in the event of a renewed strike at the port of Montreal, as industry groups are warning that a new round of industrial action would seriously hurt supply chains and the Canadian economy.
Stakeholders are worried that a strike at the port could come next month, when a truce between Maritime Employers Association and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, representing longshoremen, is due to expire.
On 16 February, the union informed its members that contract negotiations were suspended, and moved ahead with preparations for a vote on a 60-day strike mandate “as a preventative measure in case working conditions aren’t respected”.
The two sides have been at odds since the labour contract at the port expired at the end of 2018, and last summer the confrontation escalated into industrial action that paralyzed most of the port’s operations, causing severe disruption to supply chains that took two months to sort out.
The union mounted two four-day strikes, followed by an indefinite strike that lasted 12 days into late August when both sides agreed a truce.
On February 19, CIFFA addressed the Prime Minister of Canada in a letter expressing alarm concerning the deteriorating situation in labour relations at the Port of Montreal.
The Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association (CIFFA) warned it would pose a serious threat to Montreal, Quebec and the overall Canadian economy.
“We have still not fully recovered from the strike in the port last August, which according to Statistics Canada cost wholesalers C$600m (US$475m) in sales,” said CIFFA executive director Bruce Rodgers. “Another interruption will really stick a knife in the Canadian economy.”