The Maritime Employers Association promised Tuesday to respond to a union settlement proposal on Thursday after locking out about 850 longshoremen at the Port of Montreal this week, causing the port to shut down.
"We will respond to elements proposed by the union representatives last Sunday, on Thursday," Gilles Corriveau, spokesman for the Montreal branch of the Maritime Employers Association, told The Journal of Commerce.
A further meeting is scheduled for Friday, between the MEA and the Syndicat des debardeurs, the local 375 unit of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
The union offer in part would be to reduce the 850 longshore workers by 50 persons to save employer costs, local president Daniel Tremblay told The Journal of Commerce. It also includes proposals for a more efficiently organized calling of longshoremen to load or unload vessels and other streamlining of the process.
The union said it would make its position clearer at a press conference late Tuesday afternoon. It presented the proposal Sunday before the MEA called the lockout.
"We will answer the proposal that they gave us," Corriveau said in an interview. "We will not just say we don’t agree on any or all points but we will have a dialogue."
Corriveau stressed repeatedly that "we need to agree on reducing the overall cost of the program — but not to eliminate the program."
"The employers want to keep the program, to have senior workers ready and available when needed. It’s the numbers that have to be reduced."
At issue for the 850 locked out longshoremen and their employers guarantees of job security and pay for 107 senior workers. The MEA says it is costing employers about $764,000 weekly.
Montreal Port Authority spokesman Yves Gilson said in an interview that the MPA was granted an injunction by the Quebec Superior Court to require union picketers to allow passage, through the port’s six entrances, of maintenance workers and private contractors doing jobs unconnected to loading and unloading of vessels. The injunction would limit picketers to five at each gate, stationed at least 10 meters from each gate.
Nothing is moving at the Port. Gilson said the Port had not been told of where ships were being redirected. Some are anchored in the St. Lawrence River near Quebec City awaiting developments. At least one Canadian vessel has gone to Halifax. There are unconfirmed reports that others have gone or will go to New York and Norfolk, Va.
The Port of Montreal, which handles well over a million 20-foot equivalent units each year, has had a long history of labor stability on the docks. The last labor stoppage was a two-week longshoremen’s strike March 7 to 23, 1995.
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