Following a 15-hour meeting on Sunday the Quebec National Assembly passed back-to-work legislation bringing the two-week construction strike to a halt.
With the passing of Bill 54, more than 70,000 industrial, institutional and commercial construction workers returned to work at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday.
“We are asking workers to respect the law – to respect it in its entirety,” said Yves Ouellet, union spokesman, in an interview on Monday. “Just don’t expect them to do it with smiles on their faces.”
The Bill comes with a one-year deadline for renegotiations and includes fines for strikes or lockouts starting from $100 for individual workers up to $175,000 for unions or construction associations.
The Parti Québécois government wanted to extend the workers’ last contract for four-years deal and include an 8.6 per cent in wage increases over that time period, but opposition parties joined forces to impose a one-year deal with a two per cent pay increase.
Premier Pauline Marois said she is relieved the strike is over, but expressed concern that one-year will not be enough time for both sides, who are very far apart on certain issues such as labour mobility, to hammer out a deal.
“I think it will take some time to have a calm between these two partners,” Marois said. “We think one year is a little bit too short.”
Early last week, civil engineers, road and residential construction workers returned to work after they were able to reach agreements in principle.
The Montreal Board of Trade estimated the construction strike—which began with 175,000 workers walking off the job on June 18—cost the city’s economy around $15 million per day.