Back-to-work bill passes, ending strike at Port of Montreal

Port of Montreal (Photo by Cephas, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The strike at the Port of Montreal has ended following the passage of federal back-to-work legislation.

Bill C-29 received Royal Assent after being approved by the Senate late Friday (April 30), mandating the resumption of all port activities at 12:01 am on May 1. It was approved by the House of Commons early Thursday morning.

“The introduction of this legislation was not something our government took lightly. We believe the best collective agreements are the ones made at the table between the parties. However, after over two and half years of federally-supported negotiation and having exhausted all other options, legislation was necessary to avoid further and lasting harm to our economy, including the loss of a significant number of jobs,” said Minister of Labour, Filomena Tassi, in a statement late Friday.

The bill sets out a process by which the longshoremen’s union (Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 375) and the Maritime Employers Association are to negotiate with an impartial mediator-arbitrator while employees return to work at the port under the terms of the previous collective bargaining agreement. The union has already indicated it will challenge the legislation in court.

“The recent work disruptions at the Port of Montréal have had significant negative impacts on Canadians, businesses of all sizes, farmers and medical suppliers,” noted Tassi. “The disruptions were adding a significant stress to supply chains that are already under strain from COVID-19.”

More than a dozen agriculture groups, led by Pulse Canada, asked the government to intervene in the months leading up to the general strike, which started April 26, noting the importance of the port for exports, particularly containerized crops, such as edible beans and soybeans.

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