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Océan remorquage workers win new contract, end nine-month strike

March 27, 2023

SOREL-TRACY, Que. – Workers at Océan remorquage, a marine towing operation in Sorel-Tracy, have won significant gains in a new collective agreement, ending a nine-month strike during which they championed the need for federal anti-scab legislation.

The collective agreement was ratified Monday, March 27, by members of Syndicat des Métallos/United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9599, ending their strike that began June 20, 2022.

The workers negotiated wage increases that will amount to 23.25% by 2025, as well as a 1.25% increase in their profit-sharing plan and a $2,000 lump-sum payment for union members who were on the picket line.

Crucially, the union members also beat back the employer’s demands for concessions on work schedules that would have adversely affected their work-life balance.

“We demanded respect and decent wages, and we stood our ground against inhumane working hours that would have threatened our family lives. And we succeeded,” said Pascal Delisle, spokesperson for the USW Local 9599 members.

The employer had provoked the strike, then prolonged the dispute by recruiting replacement workers to try to break the union members’ resolve. Although provincial anti-scab legislation exists in Quebec, the company’s marine operations fall under federal labour law, which does not prohibit the use of replacement workers.

“These workers put up an exemplary fight, supported by the entire Steelworkers family and several FTQ (Quebec Labour Federation) affiliated unions,” said USW staff representative Luc Laberge. “They had to overcome a daunting barrier, as scabs came to take their jobs each day, which allowed the employer to mitigate the effects of the strike. We applaud our members’ determination, which made all the difference.”

The strike at Océan remorquage clearly exposed the need for the federal government to pass anti-scab legislation, said Steelworkers’ Quebec Director Dominic Lemieux. 

“This dispute would have been much shorter if there was a federal law prohibiting the use of replacement workers, as is the case in Quebec,” said Lemieux, noting the federal government has yet to fulfill its pledge to pass anti-scab legislation.

“The workers at Océan remorquage carried the torch for a federal anti-scab law, not only for themselves but for all those who will follow. We thank them and we promise to continue this battle. The Liberal government must fulfill its promise before the end of the year! We’re going to hold their feet to the fire until they do so,” he said.

The Syndicat des Métallos/United Steelworkers, affiliated with the FTQ, is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, representing more than 60,000 workers in all economic sectors.

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