Quebec faced with general construction strike

MONTREAL — Quebec’s labour minister is threatening to bring in a special law in the event of a general strike in the province’s construction industry.

Construction companies and labour federations continued to negotiate ahead of a strike deadline of midnight Tuesday night.

Work schedules and overtime are said to be at the heart of the conflict in the industrial sector, while salaries are the main stumbling block in the residential sector.

The collective agreements expired April 30.

Employer groups say they have no intention of locking out workers.

Labour Minister Dominique Vien said Tuesday the government is looking at bringing in back-to-work legislation if there is a strike.

Vien said her department estimates a strike could mean losses of $45 million a day for the Quebec economy.

“We can’t afford that,” she said.

A spokesman for one of the main employers’ groups said he believes a strike is inevitable.

“Short of a miracle — and I don’t believe too much in miracles — we’re headed for a general strike tonight,” said Francois-William Simard.

“Since the beginning of the negotiations, we haven’t really felt a willingness on the unions’ part to reach an agreement.”

Employer groups said the province’s anti-strikebreaker law does not apply to the 175,000 construction workers, meaning some sites would be able to stay open if workers showed they wanted to stay on the job during the labour conflict.

Union spokesman Michel Trepanier said workers have been told to avoid violence and intimidation.

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