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Port of Montreal: Looming Strike Threatens Supply Chains, Calls for Government Action 

Rowena Lo News

Contract negotiations at the Port of Montreal have hit an impasse, prompting a 21-day “cooling off” period that could result in a strike on January 4, 2024. Shippers, concerned about disruptions, are urging government intervention following the recent Port of Vancouver strike. In late October, Local 375 requested the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to intervene in talks with the Maritime Employers Association (MEA) for a new four-year collective bargaining agreement. The process recently concluded, but the management side has not yet submitted its wage offer. 

Union representative Murray criticized the MEA’s ocean carrier and marine terminal members for not participating in the contract talks, accusing port employers of not taking negotiations seriously. The end of the federal government’s oversight triggered the 21-day “cooling off” period under Canadian law, allowing the union to call a strike as early as January 4, following a 72-hour notice to employers. 

During a legislative session discussing the impact of the Port of Vancouver’s 13-day strike, concerns were raised about potential disruptions in Montreal. The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade highlighted a C$10.7 billion commerce loss due to the strike, while exporters lost business to non-Canadian rivals. Shippers at the Port of Montreal are already seeking more reliable routes, leading to a significant decline in traffic. 

The Montreal Port Authority reported a 12% decline in cumulative container volume in 2023 compared to the previous year. Industry leaders, including Bruce Rodgers of the Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association, urged government intervention to prevent prolonged disruptions, suggesting to legally define port operations as “essential services.” However, union representative Murray argued that the 72-hour strike notice allows ships to find alternative ports, emphasizing that during past events, longshore work was not deemed an “essential service” due to the absence of imminent danger to the population. 

For information about whether your shipment is affected, please contact the Canaan Group Sales team.