Striking Port of Montreal dockworkers listen to speeches during a rally in Montreal on Thursday, April 29, 2021. An ongoing strike at one of Canada's busiest ports could be coming to an end, as the Senate prepares to deal with back-to-work legislation today that would force 1,150 dockworkers back on the job at the Port of Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Senate passes legislation to force striking Port of Montreal employees back to work

OTTAWA — The Senate has passed legislation that will force 1,150 striking employees back to work at the Port of Montreal.

The House of Commons approved the bill early Thursday morning, with the Conservatives joining forces with the minority Liberal government.

The Senate adopted Bill C-29, the Port of Montreal Operations Act, Friday night and the legislation received Royal Assent.

Earlier Friday, Michel Murray of the Canadian Union of Public Employees local that represents the dockworkers said the bill is an attack on the workers’ constitutional right to strike.

He told the Senate the bill aims to categorize the port workers as essential workers because of economic considerations. He said no court this century has recognized that criteria.

“In a democratic context, the Charter applies, and we believe that this law is unconstitutional,” he said.

Maritime Employers Association President Martin Tessier, who represents the employer, said the bill is not a victory but a failure of the negotiation process.

“All of us in front of you today would have liked a different outcome, but we are at an impasse,” he told the Senate.

The union has said the dispute was sparked when the employer began imposing extended workday hours without consulting workers.

It said the employer told workers on April 10 that it would not honour job security provisions in the collective agreement and extended shifts by up to 100 minutes.

The union said workers would have willingly returned to their jobs had the employer simply ended the scheduling practice.

Earlier Friday, Tessier said the employer would no longer impose extended shifts on workers and would respect wage security if the law passes.

“If the law passes we could say, yes, we’ll have these extended shifts, but that’s not our intention,” he said.

“If the law goes through tomorrow, the scheduling will go back to normal and we’ll be working with the union.”

Labour Minister Filomena Tassi said the strike has caused significant harm to the Canadian economy.

“We must act now to bring a resolution to this ongoing dispute and prevent further harm,” she told the Senate.

She said fresh products worth millions of dollars are spoiling on the ships, leading to higher costs and greater food insecurity, and farmers cannot obtain key fertilizers for spring planting, which would result in a weak harvest this fall.

“There are the drug manufacturers in Montreal who rely on ingredients that arrive through the port on temperature-controlled containers,” she said.

Tassi said the parties involved in the dispute have demonstrated their inability to reach an agreement in over two and a half years of bargaining.

“We have provided federal mediators to support over one hundred bargaining sessions,” she said.

“In February, I appointed two of the most senior mediators to assist in the process. They have worked tirelessly to help the parties reach a negotiated settlement.”

Workers at the port have been without a contract since December 2018 and started to refuse overtime and weekend work earlier this month.

The union previously held a 10-day strike in August.

Murray said his union would challenge the legislation in court.

“We do not think the courts will support it,” he said

Murray said workers’ right to strike is protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“We hope that Senators are the guardians of this charter and of its values,” he said.

In a 2015 decision on a Saskatchewan case, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed that the right to strike has constitutional protection.

Tassi said the back-to-work bill would end the ongoing work stoppage at the port and provide the parties with a neutral arbitration process to resolve the dispute.

“It would also establish a new collective agreement, thereby providing much-needed stability at the port.”

Just Posted

file photo
PM tells Canadians to prepare for one-dose summer, two-dose fall

Chief Public Health Officer says 75 per cent getting first dose is target to avoid fourth wave

Chris Scott, owner of the Whistle Stop Cafe, speaks during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at his cafe in Mirror on Saturday. The Whistle Stop was shut down by AHS for not complying with COVID-19 rules. (Photo by The Canadian Press)
Central Alberta café owner and COVID-19 protester released from custody

Chris Scott was arrested at protest rally outside his cafe on Saturday

Free items can be left in front of homes during this weekend’s Kick it to the Curb event. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Kick It to the Curb runs this weekend in Red Deer

Unwanted items can be left by the curb this weekend in Red… Continue reading

Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro announced Wednesday that Alberta Health will give rapid COVID-19 tests to a local chamber of commerce, who will then distribute them to local businesses. (Photo by Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)
Businesses to get access to rapid COVID-19 tests through local chamber of commerce

Alberta Health is partnering with the Alberta Chamber of Commerce to deliver… Continue reading

A 2018 Jayco Pinnacle fifth wheel model 37MDQS valued at over $100,000 was stolen from Masco RV Storage in Wetaskiwin earlier this week. (Photo courtesy of Wetaskiwin RCMP)
A 2018 Jayco Pinnacle fifth wheel model 37MDQS valued at over $100,000 was stolen from Masco RV Storage in Wetaskiwin earlier this week. (Photo courtesy of Wetaskiwin RCMP)
Fifth wheel RV stolen from Wetaskiwin RV Storage compound

Wetaskiwin RCMP is looking for information about a stolen RV. A break-in… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Here is a list of latest COVID-19 restrictions in effect in Alberta

New mandatory health restrictions are now in effect in Alberta. Additional restrictions… Continue reading

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) celebrates with defenseman Victor Hedman (77) after the team defeated the Dallas Stars during an NHL hockey game Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Analysis: McDavid NHL’s MVP front-runner in condensed season

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid has 100-plus point season

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell (36) makes a save as Maple Leafs defenceman TJ Brodie (78) and Montreal Canadiens forward Tyler Toffoli (73) look for the rebound during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday, May 8, 2021. The Leafs and the Canadiens will meet in the playoffs for the first time in 42 years when the 2020-21 NHL post-season gets underway.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Singer Celine Dion performs during her first World Tour show called Courage Wednesday, September 18, 2019 at the Videotron Centre in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Songbird Uncaged: Celine Dion readies return to Las Vegas stage for 10-date run

Starting on Nov. 5, Dion will play 10 dates at the Resorts World Las Vegas theatre

An Empire Day/Victoria Day gathering of school children on Ross Street by the Cenotaph in the 1920s. On the right hand side, are members of the Red Deer Citizens Band (forerunner of the Red Deer Royals). (Photo via Red Deer Archives)
Victoria Day event helped after war

One hundred years ago, on May 24, 1921, a major community event… Continue reading

Gwynne Dyer
Gwynne Dyer: Independence is a one-way gate

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland declared in 2014 that the referendum… Continue reading

Boston Bruins left wing Nick Ritchie (21) and Washington Capitals defenseman Brenden Dillon (4) battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Raffl’s late goal pushes Capitals past Bruins, 2-1

Raffl’s late goal pushes Capitals past Bruins, 2-1

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Alex DeBrincat (12) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers in Chicago, Saturday, May 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Toews’ question chases Chicago Blackhawks into offseason

Toews’ question chases Chicago Blackhawks into offseason

Most Read