While members of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and their employers from Maine to Texas, are engaged in tense negotiations for a new contract that expires on Dec. 29, things appear to be much more placid in Montreal where longshoremen and employers are also negotiating a new contract that expires on Dec. 31.
“What we hear it is going well and negotiations are ongoing,” said Michèle Beaubien, director of communications at the Port of Montreal. She said employers and the union that represents longshoremen in the port are in “preventive mediation” to avoid a strike.
Employers in the port are represented by the Maritime Employers Association (MEA), which negotiates a contract with about 1,200 workers who are represented by two unions. About 1,100 longshoremen are represented by Local 375 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). About 100 checkers are members of ILA Local 1657, whose contract is unrelated to that of workers in the United States.
“The laws are different in the United States and Canada,” said Normand Daoust, MEA's vice president. “At the end of the contract there is no strike or lockout issues. We just keep negotiating at the expiration of the agreement. This year we started to negotiate prior to the end of the agreement.”
He said talks with CUPE are “very positive and we are trying to settle before the end of the year. We are at the table now and everything is going fine.”
He added if there is a strike on the U.S. East and Gulf coasts cargo would still be able to move to and from the United States via the Port of Montreal.
Ian Mulcahy, business agent for ILA Local 1657, expected that talks between his local and MEA would begin next year after a deal is reached by CUPE and employers. - Chris Dupin