The strike at the Port of Montreal moved a step closer to ending after lawmakers in Canada’s House of Commons approved back-to-work legislation early Thursday.
The legislation, Bill C-29, will require longshoremen at the port to return to work immediately after it takes effect. That could come as early as 12:01 a.m. Saturday if the Senate approves the bill on Friday, which is likely.
The 1,150 longshoremen, Canadian Union of Public Employees Local (CUPE) 375, will be prohibited from further strikes until they reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the Maritime Employers Association (MEA).
The longshoremen began a general strike on Monday, which shut down most cargo operations at Canada’s second-busiest port. It came less than a year after an 11-day strike, which ended in a truce.
Relations between the dockworkers and the port employers quickly deteriorated after the truce expired in March. The longshoremen began a partial strike after the MEA suspended a guarantee of minimum pay and moved to a general strike in response to a change in work schedules.
The MEA said the measures were in response to a drop in port cargo volumes resulting from the labor dispute.
The longshoremen have been without a contract since late 2018. While the details of the contract talks haven’t been made public, union officials have said the key sticking points include working conditions and work-life balance, pointing to schedules that can require longshoremen to work 19 out of 21 days at times.