Port of Montreal Operations Bill, 2021—Consideration of Subject Matter in Committee of the Whole—Senator Mercer

By: The Hon. Terry Mercer

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Beach and waterfront, Vancouver

Senator Mercer: Thank you for being here today. Other ports in this country have labour issues, some worse than others. The Port of Halifax, for example, seems to be doing well and has consistently had labour and employer peace. Is there no way to learn from other unions and other employers how to help make this work? Montreal is not the only port in Canada, of course, and it may have different working conditions, but surely pay equity and scheduling should be equal across the country. Why does this continue to be a problem?

Mr. Murray: I don’t think that the parties’ salary considerations have been heard yet at the bargaining table, but as far as demands are concerned, I can say with confidence that —

Senator Plett: Madam Chair, if I could intervene — and you’ll have to stop the clock here — I don’t know whether you are not getting it, but we are constantly having the translator tell us it’s inaudible. I’m not sure where in the chamber you’re getting translation when we are not getting it here. It is unfair that many senators are not able to hear what the witnesses are saying. We need to correct this problem before we can continue.

The Chair: I believe that the problem is with the transmission that we are receiving and that the translator is receiving. It’s not from our end. It’s from the sender’s end.

Senator Plett: Madam Chair, I apologized to you when I say this: I don’t care whose problem it is, this is a question of privilege. I am not hearing what the witnesses are saying, so if we cannot fix something in 2021 when we are wanting to do these types of virtual meetings, then either we stop this procedure or we fix the problem, because I am calling this on a question of privilege. I cannot understand what’s going on.

Mr. Murray: I think the question was about pay and equity at the various ports.

What I can say about equity is that pay is not a real issue at the bargaining table. However, the union’s proposal was in line with the pay increases that were approved in both Vancouver and Halifax.

Furthermore, the employer’s offers at the bargaining table have been lower than the pay increases that were approved in Vancouver and Halifax.

Senator Mercer: Chair, prior to my relinquishing the floor, I have to agree with Senator Plett. We have other witnesses coming up later this afternoon. If we’re going to have the same problem, the inability of the interpreters to do their work will just go on. They are not the problem. It’s the sound that is the problem, so I hope that our technical people are looking at the next set of witnesses, who will also be appearing remotely, so that we don’t have the problem as we continue.

That is the balance of my time. Thank you.

 

[…]

 

Senator Mercer: Thank you, Mr. Tessier, for being here. I am going to change my question. You spoke about the decrease in volume in the Port of Montreal. Do we have a prediction as to the long-term viability of the Port of Montreal if we continue to lose volume?

Mr. Tessier: Any business that is losing volume is in danger. But as far as what the impact to the long-term viability of the Port of Montreal would be if we continue to lose volume, I don’t have that information.

Senator Mercer: What about the economic impact on the Greater Montreal Area and the greater Quebec community if this decline in volume continues? Will there be jobs lost not just at the port but at the industries being fed by the port?

Mr. Tessier: There was an independent study that was brought to my attention last week stating that we’re losing, as an economy, $10 million to $25 million a day with every day that goes by with the strike. I would say that’s a greater impact than only to the Port of Montreal.

Senator Mercer: It seems to me that this problem keeps coming back. This is not a new problem that we’re talking about here today. We can never permanently fix the relationship between unions and management in the long term, but do you see a long-term solution that would be acceptable to both the employers and the unions?

Mr. Tessier: We tried to find a solution with essential services, but we were denied that at the CIRB. I think what we need to do is create a relationship with the union and make sure we’re not facing the same challenge the next time. We were about to do it in Trois Rivières, Hamilton, Toronto and with the port checkers in Montreal. I do not see why we should not be able to do it with Local 375.

The Chair: Senator Mercer, your time has expired. We are moving to the next block of 10 minutes.

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