Today, the Minister of Labour, Filomena Tassi, issued the following statement regarding the Royal Assent of Bill C-29:
“Canadians and the Canadian economy rely on the Port of Montréal and its workers to keep goods moving.
The introduction of this legislation was not something our government took lightly. We believe the best collective agreements are the ones made at the table between the parties. However, after over two and half years of federally-supported negotiation and having exhausted all other options, legislation was necessary to avoid further and lasting harm to our economy, including the loss of a significant number of jobs.
At every step, our government supported the Syndicat des débardeurs, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 375, and the Maritime Employers Association, and encouraged the parties to reach a new negotiated collective agreement
Since October 2018, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service facilitated over 100 days of mediated bargaining. My colleagues and I have been in contact with the parties on numerous occasions to urge them to work with mediators to reach a deal. Since February, the parties have also been assisted in their negotiations by two of the Government’s most senior mediators.
Despite these efforts, the parties were unable to reach an agreement, and on April 27, the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-29, which sets out a process by which the parties will continue to negotiate with an impartial mediator-arbitrator while employees return to work at the Port of Montréal.
The recent work disruptions at the Port of Montréal have had significant negative impacts on Canadians, businesses of all sizes, farmers and medical suppliers. The disruptions were adding a significant stress to supply chains that are already under strain from COVID-19.
Today, Bill C-29 received Royal Assent. The general strike will end and all port operations must resume when the Bill comes into force, tomorrow at 12:00:01 a.m. EDT. A mediator-arbitrator will be selected in the coming days after receiving names from the parties. If they do not put forward the same name, I will appoint a mediator-arbitrator. Once appointed, the mediator-arbitrator will ensure both parties have an open and neutral opportunity to advocate for their priorities as they work towards a new collective agreement first through mediation, with any remaining issues decided through interest arbitration. The most recent collective agreement will be extended until a new agreement is established.
I want to reiterate this government respects and values the work of unions, their place in our society, and their significant contributions to Canada. We firmly believe in the collective bargaining process.
Nothing in C-29 precludes the parties from continuing to negotiate and entering into a new collective agreement at any time before the mediator-arbitrator provides his or her final report to me.
I encourage both parties to work together to provide stability to the operations at the Port of Montréal.”