What will the Canadian Labour Congress do about it?
by Barry Weisleder
During the night of April 29, the House of Commons passed legislation to force the 1,160 dockers at the Port of Montreal back to work. For two and a half years since their collective agreement expired in December 2018, the dock workers have been trying to negotiate their working conditions with the Maritime Employers Association (MEA). They finally launched a full strike on Monday April 26 to block the MEA’s imposition of the unacceptable working conditions it has refused to negotiate.
To its undying shame, the Trudeau government which has never done anything to help the dockers who work as much as 19 out of 21 days, cried danger to Canada’s supply chain and passed back to work legislation. Bill C-29, An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of operations at the Port of Montreal, was passed under closure by a vote of 255-61. Three Liberals, as well as Bloc Québécois, NDP and Green MPs voted against it. The Senate is expected to ratify the bill on Friday.
The legislation imposes the resumption of activities at the port, extends the previous collective agreement until a new one is concluded, and imposes a mediator-arbitrator to decide on issues that are not resolved between the parties.
Despite the fact that Labour Minister Filomena Tassi knows full well that the dockers are continuing to unload goods required to fight the pandemic, she saw fit to outright slander the workers. The back-to-work legislation is a matter of life and death because the strike has left essential medical supplies and pharmaceuticals sitting in shipping containers as the COVID-19 pandemic rages, she self-servingly said.
Shame on Tassi, the Liberal government and all the Conservative MPs who voted with the government. The dock workers are demanding progress on job security and work schedules. Their demands are not frivolous, Ms. Tassi. They are on constant call, required to work up to 19 days in a 21 day period, assigned to day, evening and night shifts, without any relief in sight. They are subjected to an arbitrary discipline code which makes life further unlivable. Ms. Tassi and all members of cabinet and Conservative MPs should go work on the docks. Perhaps that would push their anti-worker arrogance down a peg or two.
The back-to-work legislation aggravates all the problems on the docks. Support the demands of the dock workers! Defend the right to strike!