Montreal Port Authority welcomes intervention in strike crisis

Port of Montreal welcomes strike intervention

The Montreal Port Authority (MPA) has welcomed the federal government’s decision to intervene in the dispute with striking union workers and resume maritime activities.

In a statement, the MPA said the move demonstrates its importance to the country’s supply chain and wider economy. The action could about an end to a more than two year-long dispute over dockworkers’ contracts.

However, the federal government launched back-to-work legislation to force the Port to reopen and get cargo flowing again.

Martin Imbleau, President and Chief Executive Officer, MPA, said that the several strikes the Port saw in 2020 and 2021 continue to have “serious economic and logistical impact”. An estimate from MPA suggests strike action costs as much as C$25 million ($20.1 million) a day.

“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.”

A general strike was called by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) on 26 April 2021 which caused cargo handling activities at the Port to stop entirely. The MPA admitted this would mean delays of a days or even weeks for its clients.

Previous strikes have caused tens of thousands of containers to be grounded and forced scores of vessels to reroute, causing backlogs across the supply chain.

The federal government’s decision to intervene action has been criticised by the CUPE, which accused ministers of “meddling in the bargaining process”.

CUPE National President Mark Hancock said, “There can never be free, fair collective bargaining in Canada under the threat of back-to-work legislation.”

The union’s National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury described the intervention as “disgraceful conduct from a government that pretend to be a friend to working people”.

Montreal’s new terminal

The strike development follows the federal government approved the MPA’s plan to build a new container terminal after a five-year consultation period.

Speaking to PTI, the MPA did not specify how much of the new Contecoeur terminal will be automated, saying that operations will be the responsibility of the chosen operator.

“The Port of Montreal benefits from a skilled local workforce,” the MPA said. “It is also important to know that the terminal operations will be under the management of a private partner and the type of equipment to be deployed will be under the responsibility of that private partner.”

The MPA also said it expects the terminal to open in late-2025, with preparatory construction beginning in 2021. This later than originally planned after an environmental analysis of the land.

On average, the MPA handles C$275 million ($221.68 million) worth of goods every day, ranging from agri-food products, pharmaceuticals and construction equipment to flagship products exported by local companies.

It told PTI that the future terminal will be directly connected to a Class 1 rail network and increase container handling facilities on the St Lawrence river to “effectively meet demand and continue to drive growth”.

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