Socialist Alternative (CWI Canada) spoke with Jacques Fontaine, one of the striking workers at the Old Port, Montreal
Please tell us the main aspects of the strike
Two hundred and eighty workers at the Old Port of Montréal have been on strike since May 27th. We recently rejected a proposal from a federally appointed mediator, which was not an improvement on the company’s previous offers.
Starting wages have only increased 4.25% in the last 10 years, so we have fallen behind other workers. Now 40% of us earn less than $15 an hour, with a starting wage of $10.67, which is below Québec’s minimum wage. Our main demand is a $15 minimum wage for all Old Port workers.
As two thirds of the workforce has no sick pay, we are demanding guaranteed sick pay for all.
The company has not negotiated seriously. They simply re-presented their offer three times; this offer had initially resulted in an 80% strike vote. Instead, the company used false claims to get an injunction banning us from protesting on site.
The mediator’s proposal was an increase of 12% over five years, instead of the company’s original offer of 9.5% over 4 years. This did not answer the main demands for a $15 minimum wage or sick pay.
The company has totally underestimated the workers’ determination.
What support are you getting?
Most of us are members of the PSAC union and a few are members of IATSE and we have our unions’ support. We have received excellent support from city and postal workers, other unions, community and immigrant groups, student unions and the public. Alternative Socialiste has helped from the start.
The Old Port is owned by the Canadian government, so what has the Liberal government done?
The Old Port is a tourist area owned and regulated by the Canadian government, through Canada Lands Company. [Former right wing prime minister] Harper appointed the board of Canada Lands, so they are no friends of working people.
As the Old Port is federally regulated, the company can pay below Québec’s minimum wage. The company can also use scab workers, which is not allowed in Québec’s labour code. The federally appointed mediator sided with the management and did not propose a $15 minimum wage or sick pay for all workers.
We have met a couple of local Liberal MPs but nothing has happened. The Liberal government and local Liberal MPs, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have not acted. Trudeau claims that, “Labour is a solution, not a problem.” Words are not enough – action is needed!
What can our readers do to support the strikers?
This is one of the first strikes in Canada for a $15 minimum wage, so actions for $15 and support from across Canada can help to win this vital struggle. Please:
- Build the fight for $15 in other areas
- Send messages of support to PSAC Local 10333 - Old Port Workers of Montréal, PO BOX 116, Succursale Place D'Armes, Montréal, Québec H2Y 3H8
- Send financial support with cheques to Syndicat des employés de la Société du Vieux-Port de Montréal