Longshoremen at the Port of Montreal threatening strike action

Officials at the Port of Montreal are reporting record business for the fifth year in a row.

In 2018, the port handled 1.6 million containers — a 9 per cent increase over 2017. The port's president says Canada's newly-signed trade deal with Europe has something to do with that, coupled with a strong economy.

“We see a big increase also from emerging markets." Sylvie Vachon says. "So now we have many maritime companies that are connected directly with Asia, so that helped us in our growth.” 

Vachon also admitted, though, that getting the materials from the port to their destinations around town by truck was a challenge, considering Montreal's many ongoing infrastructure projects.

That record business means long hours on the docks for the workers, and the workers belonging to the Maritime Employers' Association say they want that recognized.

Union spokesperson Michael Murray says better work life balance is just one of his members' demands, and that's part of the reason the longshoremen voted almost unanimously to give themselves a strike mandate.

"Our members work 19 days [in a 21-day period]," Murray says. "They only have two days of rest per 21 days."

Their contract expired in December.

The port's services are considered essential services, and no strike can actually happen until those essential services are guaranteed.

Meanwhile, the port also used its media event Thursday to observe a tradition which goes back to 1840 — the awarding of the gold-headed cane to the captain of the first ship that enters the port in the new year.

A bulk carrier called the Virginiaborg left Norway on Dec. 20 and entered the port at 3:50 a.m. on Jan. 2. Its Ukrainian captain, Volodymyr Yurchenko, was on hand to receive the prize.

CJAD 800's Matt Gilmour contributed to this report.