Montreal, QC — Longshoremen at Canada’s second largest port have voted nearly unanimously for a strike mandate in a move that is largely symbolic.
Union spokesman Michel Murray announced Wednesday that members voted 99.49 in favour of giving their union the power to call a work stoppage.
About 600 out of 1,110 members voted on Dec. 16, and gave union leaders a 60-day window to call the strike.
The union is negotiating a new contract, which expired in December, with the Maritime Employers Association, a group that includes ship owners, operators, agents and longshoring companies.
The strike mandate is mostly symbolic, Murray said, because the union and the employers association are in meetings with the Canada Industrial Relations Board until Feb. 15 over what are essential services.
Murray said it’s “impossible” for the union to call a strike — or for the employers to lock out workers — before Feb. 15, after which the strike mandate’s 60-day window will have expired.
He said members will have to take another vote after Feb. 15 in order for members to actually stay off the job.
A spokesman for the employers association said negotiations are going well and its members are surprised by the union’s actions.
“The objective has always been to conclude a good agreement that is mutually beneficial to both the union and the employers association,” said Yves Comeau.