During a general meeting, held on October 27, 2000, the members of both certification units gave their respective bargaining committees a mandate to commence job action which included the right to call a general indefinite strike, at their discretion. With the strength of this mandate, the committees called the employer to a final attempt to bargain before calling a strike.
In spite of the efforts made by Jacques Lessard, who served as mediator during the evening of Friday, November 3, Cast and Racine maintained their hard-line concerning the introduction of new technology and, consequently, the parties were rapidly obliged to put an end to the discussions, even before any proposals were put on the table.
Cast and Racine: Sister Companies
Although both companies belong to the CP Ship division of Canadian Pacific, the working conditions and compensation offered by the two employers differ considerably and these important and inequitable disparities for equal work are at the root of the union demands designed to reduce these differences.
“In addition to salaries, these disparities concern compensation for work performed during evening, night and weekend shifts, as well as overtime pay. We cannot tolerate these differences which are clearly a systemic discrimination against a class of workers,” noted Claude Lacroix, President of the Office Employees Council of the Port of Montreal (CUPE-QFL).
Technological Change Threatens our Jobs
“The principal bargaining issue concerns the protection of the union jurisdiction over our tasks. CP Ships’ proposals are designed to allow its employers to have work, now covered by the certification unit, performed by non-union employees.
“This demand, together with the Racine company’s introduction of a computer system which will take care of managing tasks normally carried out by its clerical employees and the Company’s admitted intention of assigning the operation of this new system to management rather than unionized personnel, confirms the union’s fears,” added the union leader.
Job Disqualification and Orphan Clauses
In fact, although technological change will not cause any layoffs, the employer is withdrawing a well remunerated and satisfying position from attribution rules provided for in the collective agreement and substituting it with a degrading and more poorly remunerated position.
Once this has been accomplished, Racine and Cast will be able to attain their objective indirectly, by simply replacing these unfortunate employees, who will be driven to quit their jobs. This objective is even more repugnant in that the Cast Company proposes orphan clauses for new employees, both in terms of salaries as well as bonuses and overtime pay.
A Management Decision at the Heart of the Conflict
“For us, the union members of Cast and Racine, there is no doubt that the present conflict is the result of a management decision to oust the union from these positions.
“The employees to whom these tasks are assigned are clerical workers with seniority who, in order to retain or improve their level of compensation will have to abandon the protection provided by the union and the collective agreement. These workers must be able to improve their position without fearing the loss of their union protection which will leave them without a collective agreement and at the mercy of the high-handed employer,” deplored Mr. Lacroix.
Determined Clerical Employees
The Cast and Racine office employees unions have both been entitled to call a legal strike since October 27, 2000.
“Our employers are in the process of missing an opportunity to contribute to cleaning up labour relations in the Port of Montreal, particularly during this very difficult period on the wharves. But they have left us no other choice than to participate actively and legally in the current disruptions at the Port of Montreal,” concluded Claude Lacroix.
SOURCE: CANADIAN UNION OF PUBLIC EMPLOYEES (QFL)
Claude Lacroix, President of the Council of Office Employees of the Port of Montreal CUPE-QFL:
Louis Cauchy, (514) 384-9681, extension 270