Work has resumed at the Port of Montreal, Canada’s second busiest port after a two-week strike by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) against their employer the Maritime Employers Association (MEA). The strike had begun on August 10 after the union previously staged a four-day strike and a 40-hour walkout in July attempting to call attention to its working conditions and lack of a contract for the past 18-months.
The longshoremen’s union and its employer announced on Friday, August 21 that they had reached a tentative agreement on a seven-month truce ending the strike. The two sides said that they are confident that they will be able to reach a negotiated agreement in principle by the end of the truce on March 20, 2021. In the meantime, meetings were held over the weekend to establish a return-to-work protocol and work has now resumed at the port.
Citing their lack of a contract since the beginning of 2019, along with their grievances over wages, work schedules, and working conditions, the 1,125 longshoremen, foreman, and maintenance worker members of the CUPE had walked off the job two weeks ago. Key among their grievances was a request for better work schedules. The union said that workers were currently expected to be on call for 19 out of 21 days. The 150-member International Longshoremen Association also served notice that it would be joining the strike.
During the strike it was estimated that as many as 20 ships diverted to other ports including Halifax or New York, both slowing shipments and adding costs. Some estimates reported that 90,000 or more containers were being impacted along with 300,000 tons of bulk cargoes.
With an extensive backlog that built-up during the strike, it is estimated that it will take between two and four weeks before shippers have caught up and operations are back to normal.
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