Montreal, Friday, March 5, 2010 – Montreal’s blue-collar workers today ended their 40-day rotating strike, which started on January 25. In the eyes of their union, they can now say “mission accomplished.” Michel Parent, president of CUPE 301, observed, “It was flawless, a perfect example of how to put pressure on the Tremblay administration. Throughout the strike, we remained visible, expressing the validity of our claims, and we managed to do it without inconveniencing Montrealers.”
The union leader is especially proud of the involvement of the workers he represents and what they accomplished, always exercising restraint despite the fact that they have been without a contract for more than two-and-a-half years and have become increasingly frustrated with the intransigence and insensitivity of the municipal government. “My hat is off to all our members, whose behaviour and attitude have been exemplary. They went out into the streets, district by district, explaining our demands and poking holes in the City’s arguments,” said Parent.
Back to the negotiating table
The next step for the union is to conclude an agreement that is satisfactory for both parties. They have responded to the conciliator’s call to return to the negotiating table on Tuesday, March 9. “I believe that we have demonstrated our good faith and a constructive attitude towards solving problems and improving public services. Gérald Tremblay needs to give his representatives a mandate to settle. But to reach an agreement, you have to be ready to compromise. We are willing to do so, and now it’s up to the City to be reasonable,” said the union president.
Montreal’s blue-collar workers have been without a contract since August 31, 2007. Their demands total $38 million, a relatively modest sum in the entire payroll of the City, and the gap between the parties on the issue of wages is about 1% over four years. The main stumbling blocks of the talks are related to contracting out to private companies, regularization of full-time employees and internal equity with other groups of Montreal employees.
CUPE represents about 70% of all municipal employees in Quebec. In addition to the municipal sector, CUPE is present in 10 other sectors in the province, including health and social services, education, urban and air transport, energy, Quebec government corporations and public agencies, and communications. With a total of nearly 105,000 members in Quebec, it is also the largest affiliate of the FTQ.