Quebec City – Longshoremen at the Port of Québec are frustrated with lagging negotiations and are not ruling out an unlimited general strike, as part of their pressure tactics. In a secret vote held at a general assembly late Friday, 95 per cent of members voted in favour of the mandate. The main cause of contention is the job allocation system for longshoremen.
Shifts are currently being allocated according to earnings, meaning those who make less get priority over those who earn more. This system—although egalitarian—forces longshoremen to rotate between day/evening/night shifts on a regular basis. Workers would rather switch to a system that gives them less rotations and more stability, while continuing to meet the employer’s operational requirements.
“Unfortunately, the employer is refusing to grant workers more stable schedules while demanding the door be opened wide for subcontractors. It goes without saying that giving in to that would go against the very existence of our union and our members refuse to do that,” stated Éric-Jan Zubrzycki, union representative for the Syndicat des débardeurs du port de Québec (CUPE Local 2614).
“So far, we can safely say that negotiations have been going smoothly, in terms of the tone and the format. But if the battle over job allocation continues for much longer, winds will change at the Port of Québec in the coming months,” concluded the union representative.
The Port of Québec’s 53 longshoremen have been without a labour contract since May 31, 2010. CUPE is by far a leader in the sector. Longshoremen working at the ports of Montreal, Quebec City, Matane, Contrecoeur, Sorel-Tracy, Bécancour and Trois-Rivières are all members affiliated to CUPE. With more than 110,000 members across Quebec, CUPE is the largest FTQ affiliate.