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Federal government to introduce back-to-work legislation over Port of Montreal labour dispute

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MONTREAL —
The federal government will intervene in the ongoing labour dispute at the Port of Montreal.

Labour Minister Filomena Tassi announced on Twitter on Sunday afternoon that the government has issued a notice to introduce legislation entitled ‘An Act to Provide for the Resumption and Continuation of Operations at the Port of Montreal.’

Tassi called the legislation the government’s “least favoured option,” and that Ottawa believes in collective bargaining.

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“However, the government must act when all other efforts” have failed, she wrote, saying the labour dispute has caused “significant economic harm to Canadians.”

“The Port of Montreal is critical to the economic well-being of Canadians across the country, particularly those in Quebec and Eastern Canada,” Tassi tweeted.

She added that the longshoremen union and maritime employers remain “far apart” in their negotiations.

On Friday, the longshoremen’s union announced plans to go on unlimited general strike starting Monday, though they promised to maintain essential services and COVID-19 related shipments.

The union has been on an overtime and weekend strike since earlier this month. According to the Montreal Port Authority, the weekend strike resulted in “close to 10,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) grounded, a backlog and delays in rail convoys, and shipping lines with vessels en route to Montreal obliged to rework their logistics.”

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The workers have been without a work contract since December 2018. A strike took place last summer, but a truce was worked out that lasted for seven months.  

In a statement, the Montreal Port Authority said it was aware of the plan to introduce federal legislation.

“After several strike episodes in 2020 and 2021, which have had and continue to have serious economic and logistical impact, it is mission-critical that the Port of Montreal be able to fully and sustainably play its strategic role as an economic engine at the service of the local population and SMEs without interruption,” said Martin Imbleau, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Montreal Port Authority.

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