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by Bruce Rodgers
CIFFA is voicing its frustration and concern around the current unlimited strike situation at the Port of Montreal.
After two four-day walk-outs to protest stalled contract talks, dockworkers at the Port of Montreal launched an unlimited strike at 7 a.m. Monday, August 10.
The Syndicat des débardeurs du Port de Montréal and the Maritime Employers Association (MEA) have so far been unable to reach an agreement.
CIFFA is frustrated by the dispute and by the inability for both sides to come to a resolution, and by the hesitancy of the federal government to become involved in and assist in the resolution of this outstanding matter.
The Federal Labour Minister, Filomena Tassi, recently commented that the government has “faith in the collective bargaining process” and that government mediation teams have been involved.
She further stated that “anything that delays the bargaining process is disappointing and harmful to both the local and national economies.”
Disappointing rather is their non-action to any issue affecting the trade community.
Five associations representing private enterprise in Quebec have jointly demanded the federal government intervene to force an end to a strike launched Monday at the Port of Montreal.
The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, the Conseil du patronat du Québec, the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec and Manufacturiers et Exportateurs du Québec warned of the critical economic situation at a news conference Monday afternoon. They signed a joint declaration demanding Ottawa name a mediator.
CIFFA has also added its name to the associations’ online petition to the federal government.
Without government engagement, however, the strike is likely to continue for some time.
CIFFA has learned that certain carriers have recently started to invoke their Matters Adversely Affecting Carrier’s Performance clause from their Terms and Conditions, which allows them to divert cargo to alternative ports and charge accordingly.
Others have granted exceptions to demurrage and detention charges, for a defined period of time.
None of this comes as a surprise.
Each carrier’s terms and conditions are slightly different and how they enforce their rules has been predicated on a commercial basis.
But CIFFA’s freight forwarding members are already reporting issues with customers regarding charges being imposed shipping lines for diversions due to the strike at the Port of Montreal, and customers’ reluctance and disbelief that diversion fees, demurrage and detention charges are now resulting from the domino effect of this labour dispute.
Freight forwarders find themselves caught in the middle without recourse of action. This situation is untenable for the freight forwarding community and for their customers.
Nearly 6,300 transport companies rely on the port, which creates 19,000 jobs, according to the port’s administration. The dispute has been dragging on for nearly two years and the port’s longshoremen have been without a contract since December 2018.