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Port of Montreal on tenter hooks awaiting results of union strike vote

MONTREAL's 1,125 dockers were to vote Sunday on the latest contract offer from employers, the same day the eight-month dock truce expires, reports IHS Media.

An industrial relations tribunal in Canada has dismissed a complaint by Montreal waterfront employers alleging dockers were negotiating in bad faith, reducing the chances of federal intervention, said the report.

Had the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) sided with the employers, it would have strengthened the latter's case that the federal government should neuter the union's ability to strike, it said.

Arguing that the port provides an essential service, waterfront employers unsuccessfully tried to convince the CIRB last year to prevent the union from having the ability to strike. The CIRB rejected the employers' attempt on June 8, and the longshore workers began their first strike action a week later.

The current MEA-CUPE (Maritime Employers Association-Canadian Union of Public Employees) labour contract expired at the end of 2018, with labour seeking higher wages through more days off per year and greater control of hiring, while employers resisted such demands. Dockers engaged in two four-day strikes last July before launching a strike on August 10 that lasted 12 days.

Importers and exporters in recent months have been diverting cargo away from Montreal rather than risk disruption similar to the nearly three weeks of strikes that crippled the port last summer.

Another strike would be devastating, not only to Montreal's reputation, but in adding stress to alternative gateways, namely the ports of Halifax and Saint John.

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