By Leo Ryan, Editor
Montreal police are investigating a confrontation between striking longshoremen and management staff of maritime employers that allegedly erupted into violence Wednesday night, according to a report from Canadian Press news agency. The Maritime Employers Association (MEA) hastily called a press conference today (Thursday) to strongly condemn the incident.
The union, CUPE 375, on Monday called a four-day strike by 1,100 dockers after prolonged negotiations with the MEA remained deadlocked. Working schedules are reported to be the biggest outstanding issue in the negotiations to renew a collective agreement that expired on Dec. 31, 2018.
Canadian Press indicated that Montreal police received a call around 7 pm on Wednesday night that a crowd of dockworkers had threatened and attacked some of the executives and their security guards near the Olympic Stadium. “There were some assaults and also some thefts,” said police spokeswoman Caroline Chevrefils.
The dockers had left the scene by the time police arrived to take statements.
At a press conference, MEA President Martin Tessier said about two-dozen managers (doing replacement work) were exiting a shuttle bus after helping to move containers at the Termont container terminal when a dispute broke out with at least 50 dockers in the stadium parking lot.
He affirmed that some employees were hit in the face and had their wallets and phones stolen, but fortunately no one was seriously injured.
“We did train some management people (to handle containers)”, Mr. Tessier said. “We didn’t take people from outside to do the work, but nonetheless the union was not happy.”
“It went bad,” Mr. Tessier said, adding: “There is no provocation in the world that deserves any intimidation, physically or verbally.”
Earlier this week, Michel Murray, spokesman for CUPE 375, said that deploying executives to handle waterfront tasks traditionally carried out longshoremen constituted an “affront” tantamount to “a declaration of war.”