Commodity groups call on labour minister to prevent looming strike at Port of Montreal

Nearly a dozen agricultural commodity groups are joining shippers from other industries in calling on the federal labour minister to step in to prevent a looming strike at the Port of Montreal later this month.

After going on a 12-day strike in August 2020, a truce between 1,125 workers with the Longshoremen’s Union CUPE Local 375 and the Maritime Employees Association is set to expire on March 20.

The coalition of farm groups, which includes Pulse Canada, the Canadian Special Crops Association, Cereals Canada, and the Western Grain Elevator Association, are asking Labour Minister Filomena Tassi to “take every approach required to mediate a negotiated agreement between the two parties and ensure a labour disruption does not further damage the Canadian agriculture industry and the wider Canadian economy.”

They’ve launched a website and an email campaign at StoptheStrike.ca.

The port handles over $880 million in containerized crops and agricultural commodities each year, notes the commodity group coalition.

Around 40 per cent of containerized special crops flow through the Port of Montreal, noted Mark Hemmes of Quorum Corporation, on RealAg Live earlier this week. (Quorum is the company hired by the federal government to provide third-party analysis and reporting on the grain transportation system.)

“If they go on strike, that basically closes down almost half of that movement we would hope to see,” said Hemmes.

Hemmes also pointed out much of the grain from Western Canada that moves through Montreal arrives via the Great Lakes, and the St. Lawrence Seaway likely won’t open until around the second week of April, “at which point I hope whatever kind of labour problem they have will have been solved, but it will have a fairly significant impact on container movements off the East Coast.”

There have already been reports of European customers diverting orders elsewhere due to the uncertainty of the supply chain through Montreal.

As of March 3, the StoptheStrike campaign includes Pulse Canada, Canadian Special Crops Association, Soy Canada, Cereals Canada, Western Grain Elevator Association, Alberta Wheat Commission, Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, and Alberta Federation of Agriculture.

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