Legislation tabled to send striking Montreal dock workers back on the job
CANADA's Federal Labour Minister Filomena Tassi has tabled back-to-work legislation for the Port of Montreal's 1,150 dock workers, who have been on strike since Monday morning, reports CBC
29 April 2021 - 19:00
The legislation would require employees to return to work after the bill passes. It would also extend their previous collective agreement until a new one is negotiated.
The legislation would also prevent any strikes or lockouts until a new agreement is signed and impose a mediator-arbitrator on both parties if negotiations fail again. Workers at the port also walked off the job seven months ago.
The strike has effectively halted operations at one of the country's busiest ports and threatened the supply chains of thousands of businesses.
Ms Tassi indicated last week she was willing to legislate the workers' return to work if negotiations with their employer, the Maritime Employers Association (MEA), went poorly during the strike.
The minister released a statement on Tuesday saying the strike is affecting supply chains already impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
'My colleagues and I have been in contact with the parties on numerous occasions to urge them to work with mediators to reach a deal,' she said in the statement.
Ms Tassi pointed out that in tabling legislation, the federal government isn't taking sides and that the parties could still choose to come to an agreement on their own terms. 'All other efforts have been exhausted and a work stoppage is causing significant economic harm to Canadians - the government must act.'
A mediation session took place on Monday, shortly after the strike began, but the union said the government's intention to legislate has killed the employer's incentive to reach a deal.
The union reacted to the tabling of legislation almost immediately, calling it 'an affront to all workers in the country.'
In a news release, the Quebec director of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), Marc Ranger, said: 'Fundamental rights are being violated. It is shameful for a government that calls itself a defender of the middle class.'
In a letter to Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, CUPE National president Mark Hancock said the proposed bill would undermine Canada's legal protections for striking workers.
'Fair negotiations cannot take place under the threat of back-to-work legislation that completely alters the bargaining process,' Mr Hancock's letter said. 'That is why I ask you to personally intervene with the party that is actually at the source of the work stoppage, the [Maritime Employers Association].'
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