ILWU Canada pledged solidarity last week to fellow dockers in Montreal with a gesture unmistakeable in its strength: a raised fist of support from workers fresh off a gruelling bargaining campaign, to their comrades across the country still locked in a brutal battle of their own.
On June 13, as the ILWU contract caucus voted to recommend ratification of their longshore contract, President Rob Ashton spoke about the enormous struggle facing dockers in Montreal where Syndicat des Débardeurs CUPE 375 and the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) are without a collective agreement, and the Montreal Maritime Employers Association (MEA) seems determined to smash the union by seeking an order from the labour board to take away the workers’ right to strike.
When Ashton informed the caucus of his intention to attend a CUPE 375 assembly and bring greetings of solidarity, the ILWU caucus pledged immediate and full support to our sisters and brothers in Montreal.
CUPE 375 met in Montreal on Sunday for an update on their negotiations and to hear a report from Ashton. He updated CUPE 375 President Martin Lapierre and members on the ITF lashing campaign, noting that it has sadly seen the loss of a second officer who fell to his death from the Maersk Patras into the Saint Lawrence River whilst lashing under fatigue while the vessel was still underway.
Ashton also reported on the extremely difficult, but potentially successful, round of negotiations that have provided wins in automation language, social conditions and monetary gains for the ILWU.
The potential wins contrast sharply with the MEA’s efforts to steal the workers’ right to withdraw their labour – a cornerstone of workers’ rights and fair collective bargaining worldwide and a constitutionally protected charter freedom for Canadian workers. Canadian dockers and members of ITF affiliates worldwide are following the Montreal employers’ assault on rights closely.
“The right to strike is one of our only ways of fighting our employers,” Ashton said. “We, as the labour providers, must be able to withdraw our services when the time is right for our people. We must, as longshore unions in this country, defend each other’s right to strike — and fight the MEA’s blatant attack on the working class.”