If the majority of Quebecers have not yet felt the impact of the strike by longshoremen that paralyzed the Port of Montreal since the beginning of the week, it will not be long, warn experts.
“It is an infrastructure too large for it to pass unnoticed, and this well beyond Montreal, supports, without hesitation, Claude Comtois, an expert on questions of maritime transport at the University of Montreal. Few know it, but this port is nothing less than the line of the commercial life of Québec and Canada “.
40 million tonnes
The Long 26 kilometers on the banks of the St. Lawrence river, the Port of Montreal welcomes usually 5 to 7 ships per day, or up to 2000 vessels per year.
Traffic of 40 million tonnes handled per year in fact the busiest port in eastern Canada and a major gateway for the transport of goods in North America.
Different employers ‘ organisations took the floor yesterday to remind everyone of its importance : 90 % of all importers and exporters of Quebec and Ontario use the port.
So 2500 trucks all over the world (Canada and the United States) are entering or exiting on a daily basis.
“In addition to the trucks, it is necessary to add the trains, insisted the professor Comtois. 60 to 80 railway wagons emerge every week, some of a length of 3 km ! “
A week is enough
In this context, every day of conflict we approach the moment when the products will come to miss in the shops.
And the entry in strike of a new group of employees, today, will do nothing to help.
According to professor Jacques Roy, a specialist in logistics at HEC Montreal, there is no doubt that this strike could soon be felt by the population.
“In Los Angeles and Vancouver, which have known of such conflicts, the effects began to be felt after a week. The same thing could happen here. “
The Montreal port authority, we swear not to be subjected to impacts direct financial conflict. Its cost would be more of a reputation.
This week, confirms his spokesperson, at least seven vessels-the port’s clients have seen their operations affected by the conflict.
In such situations, the vessels tend to transit to competitor ports, such as Halifax or New York, ” says professor Roy.
The catch is that once they have made the test, some end up adopting them. It is at this time, ” he observes, often weeks later, that a port will eventually measure the consequences.
The federal government called on to intervene more quickly
Shaken after the altercations of Wednesday, the big boss of the longshoremen of the Port of Montréal, on strike since the beginning of the week, calls for the prompt intervention of Ottawa.
In an interview with The Newspaper, the president of the maritime employers Association (MEA), Martin Tessier, said yesterday requested a meeting with the federal minister of Labour, Filomena Tassi, in the hope that an intervention could lead to the early resumption of negotiations.
Wednesday evening, twenty frames of Termont Montréal and guardians, responsible for their security, had been physically attacked by a group of longshoremen, whom they accused of having beaten and robbed of their wallets and phones.
Loss of control
While the SPVM has opened an investigation for theft and assault, Martin Tessier said the worry of intimidation and fear that they lead to a stalemate of the negotiations. “Honestly, until yesterday evening, I thought that the situation was under control. But since, I am less certain. “After four days of strike, the 1125 tank tops should in principle resume work this morning. Another smaller group of longshoremen (the auditors) should take over this morning in the context of a strike expected until tomorrow. As the first one, their collective agreement is due since 2018.
Asked about his expectations of the minister of Labour, the pattern of the EMA has refused to be more specific. This last is equipped with an array of powers up to the adoption of a special law forcing the return to work.
Informed by The Newspaper of this call for intervention from Ottawa, the representative from CUPE, Michael Murray, is shown to be the least surprised. “I don’t understand, he said. If this is the case, we would have had to be informed. Are we really made to play to the one cup of onions and the other who is crying ? “
The Port of Montreal in brief
Jobs : 19 000 direct jobs, indirect and induced
Extent : 26 linear km of shoreline
Volume transited : 40 million tonnes/year
Value of goods : $40 billion/year
Economic benefits to the country : $2.6 billion/year
Source : port Authority of Montreal and University of Montreal