Quebec construction strike: premier promises back-to-work legislation next week

≈MONTREAL — Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says he will begin the process of adopting back-to-work legislation Monday if there is no agreement in the province’s construction strike.

Couillard told reporters in Jerusalem on Thursday he’s giving the sides the weekend to hammer out a deal.

“I have asked that the government take measures to be ready to act Monday,” he said following a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He did not want to say whether he will call back the legislature on Monday or whether the process would begin that day for the law to be tabled Tuesday.

“We won’t allow the economy to be bled $45 million a day,” he said, referring to the amount the strike is estimated to cost the province daily.

Word of legislation came as various marches took place across Quebec in support of the strike as it entered Day 2.

About 175,000 workers launched the unlimited general strike on Wednesday, crippling activity on major projects such as the Champlain Bridge and a Montreal superhospital.

The two sides were expected to resume negotiations later Thursday after union officials had a meeting with Labour Minister Dominique Vien in Quebec City, giving her a schedule of new meetings.

“The minister had asked us to provide her with a schedule and a game plan for the negotiations, that’s what we did,” Michel Trepanier, a spokesman for the union alliance, said in an interview.

Work schedules, overtime and salaries are some of the main stumbling blocks in the negotiations.

“Our jobs, our families are not negotiable and never will be,” said Yves Ouellet, head of the Quebec Federation of Labour’s construction wing, told a crowd of 3,000 in Montreal.

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