MONTREAL, Que. – More than 600 Quebec truckers went on a wildcat strike at the end of October, causing a back-up of intermodal shipments handled by the Port of Montreal and the facilities of Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways.
“The owners refuse to recognize our right to unionize,” said John David Duncan, vice-president of the Syndicat National du Transport Routier (SNTR), the union which represents the 1,200 intermodal owner/operators, brokers and drivers in Montreal.
The SNTR operates under the umbrella organization of the Confederation des Syndicats Nationaux (CSN), one of Quebec’s most powerful unions.
The employers “have been systematically contesting our requests for accreditation. We’re faced with such obstinacy that we’ve decided to take great measures to make them listen to reason,” Duncan told the 600 truckers who attended an Oct. 23 rally.
The truckers threw up picket lines at as many as 39 trucking companies in and around the city. Those are the companies that received requests for accreditation from the CSN, but failed to respond or are contesting the unionization bid, the truckers say.
According to CSN spokesman Henri Goulet, the SNTR arranged a meeting before the Oct. 23 rally to discuss the foot dragging by the carriers, but company representatives failed to show up. Protests were also being staged at the gates of the port, but traffic was being permitted to pass in and out.
The population of Quebec won’t be directly affected by the strike, Goulet said. Quebec passed legislation earlier in the year barring truckers from protesting on the province’s highways after slowdowns and roadblocks in the fall of 1999 turned the routes into parking lots. Then truckers were protesting fuel prices and working conditions.
The Port of Montreal was threatening to get a court injunction, Goulet told Truck News shortly before it went to press.
The truckers say they aim to halt intermodal transport in Montreal, adding that the targeted companies handle the overwhelming majority of merchandise deliveries to and from the Port of Montreal and through the CN and CP railways.
According to the SNTR, about 60 per cent of the truckers taking part in the strike are O/Os.
The Quebec Labor Commission ruled last month that O/Os should be viewed not as contractors but as employees, giving them the right to bargain collectively under Quebec’s Labor Code.
Robert Garfield, president of Garfield Inc., said about 50 truckers were protesting outside his company’s Montreal facility. “It’s an illegal strike, completely,” he said, and called on the government to end it.
Independent truckers recently won a ruling that they had hoped would prevent the need for a strike. In a Sept. 12 decision, Labor Commissioner Andree St. Georges ruled that 50 O/Os who work for Transport Huppe of Montreal, and who are seeking union certification, are employees as defined by Quebec’s Labor Code.
There are about 6,000 independent truckers in Quebec. n
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