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Montreal becomes “part time” port

The Montreal Port Authority says a ban on overtime and weekend work will cut its capacity by "close to 30%".

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Montreal becomes “part time” port

The Montreal Port Authority (MPA) has issued a statement saying the ongoing labour dispute at the port has created a “climate of uncertainty” that is having a detrimental effect on its business.


“The recent deterioration in labour relations between the dockworkers’ union CUPE 375 and the Maritime Employers Association is seriously impacting our ability to fulfil a mission that has been drastically curtailed,"said Martin Imbleau President and CEO of the MPA. "And the potential for escalation will only further curtail it. After an 11% decline in volumes in March, the Port now has to deal with decisions that will drop its port capacity by close to 30%. For once in its history, the Port of Montreal is posting results that pale in comparison to its competitors on the U.S. East Coast, who are enjoying significant growth."

Martin Imbleau President and CEO of the MPA.
Martin Imbleau President and CEO of the MPA.

After a strike at Montreal in August 2020, the Port of Montreal Longshoremen’s Union (CUPE 375) and the Maritime Employers Association (AEM) agreed to a seven-month truce to allow negotiations to continue up till March 2021 without any further disruption. Negotiations have taken place, but CUPE 375 and the AEM have not been able to reach an agreement on shift scheduling, work hours and other concerns raised by CUPE 375 members pushing for a better work life balance.


The failure to reach an agreement led to a resumption of pressure tactics by CUPE 375. In response the AEM gave the union 72-hours notice that it is removing an income guarantee and will only pay for hours worked. CUPE 375 has since banned all overtime and weekend work, reducing operational hours to one day shift on Monday to Friday only. Allowing for breaks this limits cargo handling activity to around 5.5 hours a day.


The MPA said nearly a month before the truce ended on 21 March it “found that several Quebec and Ontario businesses that use the Port of Montreal, including some that move critical cargo to combat COVID-19, are already diverting containerised goods to other ports, and that others are planning to do so if a new work stoppage occurs soon.”


During March some services were re-routed to Halifax and Saint John, New Brunswick. At a press conference CUPE 375 spokesperson Michel Murray said cargo is still moving through the port, but the MPA says a part-time port will not deliver a viable service.


“The reduced scope of scheduled work will generate delays and additional costs for clients in Quebec and Ontario. Public services are rarely offered on a part-time basis, yet this is what will be imposed on the thousands of businesses that are the Port of Montreal’s raison d’être," said Martin Imbleau. "The current labour dispute means that port operations will only be partially available and capacities will be slashed. For the thousands of exporters and importers as well as the general public, who all count on this means of provision, the parties must recognise the strategic nature of this public service and quickly reach an agreement,” he concluded.

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