Delmar International avoids the port of Montreal for fear of a strike

(Montreal) A major transportation company has decided to redirect its goods destined for the Port of Montreal over fears of a potential strike, raising fears that other companies will follow its example.

Delmar International, a Quebec-based logistics company with 1,500 employees in 17 countries, said all cargo destined for Montreal will now go through the Port of Halifax as part of a preventative measure to limit the fallout from a possible imminent means of pressure.

“As uncertainties persist at the Port of Montreal, Delmar International will reroute all East Coast cargo to Montreal via Halifax to limit the negative impact of a possible work stoppage until further notice,” said the company to its customers in a notice last week.

Earlier this month, the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) rejected a request from employers at the Port of Montreal to force employees to work during a strike, opening the door to possible pressure tactics or a lockout after a six-month freezing period while the application was under review.

On Friday, the Maritime Employers’ Association filed a complaint with the CCRI, calling on it to restart negotiations due to the “bad faith” of the union, which it said refused to resume negotiations.

“The parties are at an impasse caused by the union’s refusal to negotiate,” we can read in the text of the complaint.

“The association is contacting the CCRI in order to urgently obtain a hearing and remedies to force the Union to comply with its obligations and thus allow the resumption of negotiations,” we add.

The last meeting between the two sides took place on January 16, according to the filing.

“Strong signals”

Association spokesperson Isabelle Pelletier said employers are “very worried” about the consequences of growing fears of a strike.

“We have strong signals that goods will be rerouted due to the uncertainty at the Port of Montreal,” she said in an email.

The employers, who in their complaint accuse workers of “shugging” goods, note that they continue to pay employees, including those not at work, while freight volumes are down, an “untenable situation” since income is decreasing as a result, according to the association.

Container shipments fell nearly 9% last year, according to port tonnage data.

The Longshoremen’s Union, which represents approximately 1,200 Montreal port workers affiliated with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, declined to comment. The collective agreement expired on December 31.

Canada’s marine supply chain has faced several labor disruptions over the past four years, in addition to backlogs and bottlenecks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last summer, a strike by 7,400 longshoremen at British Columbia ports lasted 13 days, closing the country’s largest port and costing the economy billions of dollars.

In October, an eight-day strike by St. Lawrence Seaway workers disrupted shipments of grain, iron ore and gasoline.

And in Montreal, longshoremen last struck in August 2020 as part of a 12-day strike that stranded 11,500 containers on the docks.

A “critical situation”

Mutual suspicion still persists today after this strike, according to observers.


Federal Minister of Transport, Pablo Rodriguez

Federal Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez highlighted the apparent “climate of mistrust” between longshoremen and the Maritime Employers Association.

“The situation is becoming critical,” commented spokesperson for the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association, Julia Kuzeljevich.

“There is a strong fear that they could file a 72-hour strike notice at any time. Many choose to divert their cargo. […] “It’s a big question mark hanging over the situation,” she added.

Before starting the picket lines, the union will have to hold a vote on a strike mandate, which it can do at any time. If the vote is positive, the strike could begin three days after union leaders give the order.

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