Independent truckers who continue to strike at the Port of Montreal could lose their jobs once the boycott is over, a spokesman for the trucking companies told the Montreal Gazette Tuesday.
"We will be looking at this on a case-by-case basis," said lawyer Francois Rouette, whose law firm represents 19 trucking companies affected by the three-week walkout.
The demonstration began Oct. 22 by 900 owner-operators who have signed union cards with the Confederation of National Trade Unions, trying to force the approximately 40 companies they work for at the port to negotiate a single contract with them.
According to Rouette, the truckers have contracts with the companies to provide them with services but aren't providing those services while they are on strike.
"We are not about to do business with criminals," he told the paper. "We can tell them that their services are no longer needed."
After the National Assembly passed back-to-work legislation last week, the companies represented by his firm sent letters by bailiff to every trucker they employ, telling them to go back to work.
"Some said they were more than willing to come back but they were scared, they were intimidated, there would be violence if they came back," Rouette said.
That same day, employees of Garfield Container Transport were given two weeks' notice of potential layoffs if the strike continues.
"There are no drivers," general manager Ralph Fishman told the Gazette. "We don't have any business."
The CNTU said they would return to work if the trucking companies agreed to sign a back-to-work agreement that would guarantee the truckers wouldn't be disciplined for striking. The CNTU also wants companies to negotiate wages and pay for time spent waiting for containers to be unloaded.
"We're trying to force the employers to recognize [the truckers'] right to unionize and to sit down with us and negotiate with us," said Arthur Sandborn, chairman of the CNTU's Montreal council. "If they did that, there would be no strike."
But, according to Rouette, the trucking companies aren’t too keen on the idea.
"They're looking for us to say nothing has happened and we don't hold a grudge and, furthermore, we'll negotiate with you," he said. "Our response is a definite no."
The companies are already suing the CNTU for almost $12 million in damages and lost revenue caused by the walkout, he added.
The union also faces huge fines for defying the back-to-work law, but Sandborn told the paper that the fines would not deter the strikers.
"We will contest the fines, and at the same time the constitutionality of the law."
The Canada Labor Relations Board is expected to rule on the CNTU's application to represent the workers by the end of the week.
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