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Ag industry watching situation at Port of Montreal

Ag industry watching situation at Port of Montreal

Workers went on strike Monday morning

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Canada’s agricultural sector are keeping a close eye on the Port of Montreal.

More than 1,000 workers from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) local 375 went on strike Monday morning after the union and the Maritime Employers’ Association (MEA) failed to reach an agreement.

“We don’t want to hurt the Montreal economy. However, we do want to exercise our fundamental right to bargain collectively,” Michel Murray, spokesperson for CUPE local 375, said in a statement.

The workers walked off the job Monday in response to the MEA wanting to increase shift lengths from five hours and 20 minutes to seven hours.

Members of Canada’s ag industry don’t want to see this strike linger.

Workers at the port have already been conducting overtime strikes and refused to work weekends since April 17 and 18.

Those unworked days have already cost the ag sector millions of dollars.

“The strike at the Port of Montreal represents yet another threat to Canada's reputation as a dependable and trustworthy trade partner, similar to the rail strike and railway disruptions in 2020,” the Canadian Federation of Agriculture told in an emailed statement. “The partial strike, which has been ongoing for weeks, has already been estimated to have cost agriculture exports over $6.5 million, with overall volumes down 11 per cent over the Fall.

The port is important for getting Canadian farmers the inputs they need, Fertilizer Canada said.

“Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of fertilizer enter Canada through the Port of Montreal during spring seeding season,” the organization said in an April 23 statement. “These fertilizer products are destined for farms across Eastern Canada and ensure that farmers are able to produce the crops that keep our grocery aisles full. If this strike is allowed to occur, up to one million acres in Eastern Canada may go unfertilized just next week.

The federal government is preparing to step in with back-to-work legislation.

In a Twitter thread on Sunday, Labour Minister Filomena Tassi announced the government “has issued a notice to introduce legislation entitled ‘An Act to Provide for the Resumption and Continuation of Operations at the Port of Montreal.’

This legislation could come as early as Wednesday.

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