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The rotating strike of Montreal’s blue-collar workers took a new turn on Monday when the union, an affiliate of CUPE, filed a complaint with the Essential Services Council. The blue-collar workers are accusing the Tremblay administration of what they believe is a misuse of manual labour on work stoppage days.

In its complaint, the union denounced the practice of calling in teams “on standby”, with no immediate tasks to perform, while these employees are officially on strike. “Bringing in our workers as a preventative measure is totally against the rules of essential services,” argues Michel Parent, president of CUPE 301. “If there is an emergency, a large accumulation of snow or an event that endangers the safety of the public, of course we’ll go in to work. But that does not mean waiting in a garage when you’re on strike.” This misuse of labour has been observed at least twice in the South-West and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve boroughs.

The approximately 5,000 blue-collar workers in Montreal have been without a contract since August 31, 2007. The main stumbling blocks in the talks have been job maintenance and what the union considers excessive subcontracting. CUPE 301 wants to obtain permanent status for several casual and temporary workers who work on a regular basis but do not enjoy all the benefits of an employment contract. It also wants to recoup part of the 15% decline in the working conditions of its members imposed by an arbitrator five years ago.