The mobilization of the dockers at the Port of Montreal is reaching a critical point. With the strike only beginning, the Trudeau Liberals, with the full support of the CAQ at the provincial level, are moving to take away the democratic right to strike. We cannot let another strike be crushed through the use of back-to-work legislation.
Provocations of the bosses
Since the end of the seven-month truce on March 21, the bosses have been in attack mode. On April 12, the Maritime Employers Association (MEA) decided to suspend the job security plan. The dockers organized in CUPE 375 retaliated with an overtime and weekend strike.
Then, on April 23, another slap in the face: the MEA changed work schedules to increase hours worked and implement “shift schedules” that make it harder to balance work and family—which is one of the main issues in the negotiations!
This tactic of changing schedules is a contemptuous frontal attack. This was also implemented in the fall of 2018, before the dockers had a strike mandate. Michel Murray, spokesperson for the union, said in his press conference on Friday that the anger of the membership had to be contained to avoid an illegal strike at that time.
Since the August 2020 strike, one thing is clear: the bosses have no intention of negotiating. We can’t count on their good faith. They want to provoke the dockers into submission.
Enough is enough! The vicious cycle of strikes being crushed through the use of back-to-work legislation must end. We have an opportunity to turn this around. While rank-and-file dockers are ready to fight, leadership is needed. CUPE 375’s leadership must keep the strike going, and refuse to obey the special legislation!
This is a struggle for the entire labor movement. The central unions must give all the necessary support (financial, mobilization, solidarity strikes) to the longshore workers in this struggle.
Defend the right to strike! Defy back-to-work legislation!
Capitalist offensive against the right to strike
The right to strike was won through a heated struggle. Our forebears went on illegal strike, faced fines and jail time so that we could have the right to strike, the right to make gains, and the right to curb the selfishness of the bosses. The labour movement would not be where it is today if we had not defied unjust laws in the past.
But the Liberals and their provincial counterparts are once again about to take away that right to strike. We see the true face of Justin Trudeau: he hypocritically presents himself as a friend of workers in order to better betray them. This is not new; the Liberals have always worked like this. Let’s not forget that it was the Liberal Party of Canada that passed the first back-to-work legislation in the history of this country in 1950.
And that’s what happens as soon as a strike is effective. It happened to the CUPW postal workers in 2018, under Trudeau. It happened to construction workers at the hands of the PQ in 2013, and Philippe Couillard’s Liberal Party in 2017—each time with the enthusiastic support of the CAQ, all to protect the interests of the bosses.
Let’s be clear: if this law is implemented, it will be a defeat for all workers in Quebec and Canada. Quebec’s public sector and construction workers will be next. If the bosses know that every time they negotiate they have back-to-work legislation as their ultimate weapon, they will never make any concession. This struggle goes far beyond the fate of the brave longshore workers. It concerns the entire working class of Quebec and Canada.
CUPE 375’s website states that the union is one of the “pioneers in the heroic history of class struggles in Quebec, Canada and North America.”
Indeed, the Montreal longshore workers have a rich tradition of struggle. Between 1960 and 1975, there were 13 strikes at the port, including illegal strikes. A 37-day strike in 1966 led to wage increases, greater job security and better work sharing. All of the workers’ gains are due to the combative strikes of the past.
And if we want to curb the bosses’ endless thirst for profit and make gains even today, it starts with defending the right to strike.
Everyone knows that these laws are illegal. All special laws end up being ruled unconstitutional after the fact. But we cannot wait for a judge’s opinion: it is here and now that the law aims to destroy the strike. It is here and now that we must prevent its application!
To do this successfully, we will need the support of the broader labour movement. It would be a crime against the working class to leave the longshore workers alone in the face of the MEA, Quebec Inc., the CAQ and the Liberals.
As we said in our last article:
“Longshoremen cannot be left alone. It is imperative that the entire labour movement mobilize in solidarity. CUPE, the FTQ and other labour federations have a duty to support the longshoremen in a concrete way and to make their resources available to them. We must go and reinforce the pickets, organize demonstrations in support, even solidarity strikes if necessary.
“In order to contribute to the mobilization around this struggle, a solidarity campaign with the longshoremen has just been launched. We invite all workers, unionized or not, to spread the word in the movement!”
By refusing to submit to this unjust law, the dockers organized in CUPE 375 would set an inspiring example to the entire working class. This would serve as a rallying cry for all of those sectors of the labour movement who want to defend the right to strike. By concretely supporting the longshore workers, the labour movement would show what class solidarity looks like and put the bosses on the defensive. No law is stronger than a mobilized working class!
Jamais tu me casseras!
Defy back-to-work legislation! Defend the right to strike!
Solidarity with the dockers of CUPE 375!