April 25th, 2024

Tribunal rejects Montreal port employers’ bid to rule dockworkers as essential

By The Canadian Press on March 14, 2024.

A federal tribunal says Montreal port employers have no right to make employees work during a strike, paving the way for negotiations to resume ahead of potential job action. Trucks carrying shipping containers drive through the Port of Montreal, Tuesday, Sept.19, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi

OTTAWA – A federal tribunal says Montreal port employers cannotmake employees work during a strike, paving the way for negotiations to resume ahead of potential job action.

In a decision this week, the Canada Industrial Relations Board shut down an attempt by the Maritime Employers Association to draw out a back-and-forth over whether port work constitutes essential service, rejecting their case.

The employers and the union representing 2,100 port workers failed to secure a new collective agreement before it expired on Dec. 31, but the case was before the tribunal at that time, postponing potential job action.

Explaining its summary decision, the labour board cited an earlier ruling that the employers association failed to demonstrate “imminent and serious risks to the health and safety of the public” – the criteria for essential service – in the event of a work stoppage.

The association had asked the tribunal in October to review whether longshoreworkers carry out essential service in a bid to prevent a strike on the waterfront.

In the summer of 2020, Montreal longshore workers launched a 12-day strike that left thousands of containers languishing on the dock at Canada’s second-largest port. Last summer, a strike by 7,400 B.C. dockworkers dragged on for 13 days, shutting down the country’s biggest port and costing the economy billions of dollars.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 14, 2024.

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