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Shipping industry warns of disruptions from potential strike at Port of Montreal

Some businesses have started rerouting containers to other ports so they don't become trapped in Montreal by a strike or lockout.

The Shipping Federation of Canada is warning that a potential strike at the Port of Montreal is already having a damaging impact even as negotiations are set to resume Wednesday with the help of mediators.

As the clock ticks toward the end of a labour truce between the Port of Montreal and its unionized longshoremen, Quebec manufacturers and exporters are starting to feel the strain.

The union representing the port’s 1,125 longshoremen and the Maritime Employers Association last year agreed after a 10-day strike to a seven-month labour truce that would see neither side engage in strike or lockout activity.

That truce ends on Saturday.

The two parties agreed not to talk to the media during the truce, but Marc Ranger, Quebec head of the SCFP union, said there was “intensive” mediation and at least three mediators involved. “All our energies are working to reach a deal in principle. We have faith in the process,” he said.

Véronique Proulx, president of the Manufacturiers et exportateurs du Québec, said her group’s membership has become “very nervous” and “very worried” as the deadline nears an end.

Some businesses have already begun rerouting containers to other ports — most notably Halifax — in order for them not to become trapped in Montreal by a strike or lockout, she said.

In the case of some major exporters, said Proulx, those detours can represent “millions of dollars a week.”

The Canada Industrial Relations Board has already ruled that the workers do not perform an essential service that prevents them from striking.

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