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Trouble at the Docks: Auto industry braces for potential strike at Port of Montreal

Montreal, Quebec — A dispute among dockworkers and their employers at the Port of Montreal could see yet another tie-up in the Canadian auto industry’s course for clear waters, following a pandemic that brought sales to new depths.

The call is for better schedules among the longshoremen of the Port of Montreal, who voted overwhelmingly against an offer put forth to them by the Maritime Employers Association on March 21.

The workers are not yet calling for a strike, however, the possibility is on the table and auto industry executives are worried about what this could mean for an already limping automotive supply chain.

“The situation in Montreal is deeply concerning,” said Brian Kingston, head of the Canadian Vehicles Manufacturers’ Association, which represents the interests of the Detroit Three in Canada.

According to the Port of Montreal statistics, it processed 456,650 metric tons of vehicles and accessories in 2020.

“We just came out of a massive economic downturn and having a critical piece of our transportation network shut down will not help the Canadian economy recover,” said Kingston. 

“Companies aware of the potential strike are already moving cargo to different ports.

“We do not want Canada to get a reputation of being an unreliable jurisdiction when it comes to moving goods. The last thing you need is a perception that things can’t get done and product doesn’t move effectively.”

Hapag-Lloyd AG, a German shipping company that operates out of the port is already warning its customers to expect that “terminal performance in the port will be severely impacted” as a result of a potential strike.

Kingston says that at the very least, the union is obligated to provide 72-hours notice prior to a strike, giving some time for manufacturers to divert their shipments.

Negotiations between the Maritime Employers Association and the Port of Montreal longshoremen are expected to continue as soon as possible.

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