Workers at Canada’s second-largest port, the Port of Montreal, have given a notice of strike starting on Apr 26 to protest working conditions. The strike includes stopping all overtime and weekend activity prior to a full walkout.
The workers union is striking to protest the Maritime Employers Association’s (MEA) refusal to revoke its decision to reduce worker wage cuts. Specifically, MEA will cease compensation for hours not worked according to schedules. The MEA noted it made the cutback due to a reduction in tonnage and that negotiations are adding to the uncertainty. Labor relations deteriorated further after MEA recommended a close to 30pc cut in port capacity.
Replying to these recommendations, Syndicat canadien de la fonction publique (SCFP) noted that while it agreed with the reduction in tonnages passing through the port, it disagreed on the amount, effect, or causes and rejected MEA’s April 15 offer. During negotiations earlier this week, the dockworkers union had offered to call off the strike in exchange for halting cutbacks, which include a change in shift schedule and an end to job security for workers. However, the Port of Montreal rejected offer.
Business groups and the local government are now urging the federal leadership to interfere since a strike would strongly affect the transportation of raw materials and finished goods. According to the MEA, about 90pc of all consumable goods in Eastern Canada enter through the Port of Montreal. Iron ore is imported via the port and could affect steelmaking.
Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon noted the port’s importance in reviving the economy after the COVID-19 related lockdowns, via a Twitter message. He added that the dispute has affected regional businesses enough.
The Port of Montreal is on the St. Lawrence River in Montreal, Quebec and is the shortest direct route from the Mediterranean and Europe to North America via the Atlantic. The port handled more than 2,000 cargo ships with over 40mn mt of cargo in 2019. It handled 6.8mn mt or 45pc by rail and 8.3mn mt or 55pc by road. Activity in the port supports over 18,000 jobs.
The port’s largest 2020 bulk liquid traders include the US (3.1mn mt), Europe (1.4mn mt), and Latin America (290mn mt). For dry bulk, Latin America (864,000mt) is the biggest trader through this port followed by Europe (488,000mt), and the US (209,000mt). In terms of containerized cargo, Europe leads with 4.6mn mt, followed by Asia 3.8.mn mt, the Mediterranean with 2.9mn mt, and the Middle East with 1.1mn mt.
The port leads with grains at 1.3mn mt in inbound activity and 2mn mt in outbound activity in 2020. Iron Ore imports via the port tallied at 1.7mn mt while exports were 54,609mt in 2020. In 2019, a more normalized iron ore year encountered 2.1mn mt of imports. Other mineral imports stood at 43,067mt with no exports and ferro-alloys were 20,255mt in imports last year. Metal waste was not imported at this port, but 195,634mt of scrap was exported from Montreal last year.
Canada’s larger port is the Port of Vancouver on the Pacific Ocean.