Quebec construction strike rattles Canada’s ruling elite


Quebec construction strike rattles Canada’s ruling elite

Laurent Lafrance

25 May 2017

Quebec’s 175,000 unionized construction workers launched an “unlimited general strike” Wednesday morning, shutting down industrial, commercial, institutional, highway/bridge, and residential construction sites across the province.

Although the strike is being led by a coalition of rightwing unions, who are no less determined than the employers and government to bring it to a quick end, the mobilization of the industrial power of an important section of the working class has rattled the establishment.

The media, government and employer spokesmen are angrily complaining about the strike’s disruptive impact on the economy. According to them, each day the strike continues will “cost” Quebec $45 million.

Last week Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard all but announced that his Liberal government would illegalize any construction worker strike, as the previous Parti Quebecois government did in 2013. He told a press conference if a “vital part” of Quebec’s economy were paralyzed, he wouldn’t “remain arms folded.”

Yesterday, the premier was even more explicit. From Israel, where he is on an official tour, Couillard said his government would table back-to-work legislation in the Quebec legislature if the strike does not end soon. “I must send this signal very early,” said Couillard, “because Quebec’s economy is at stake, and because Quebec’s best interests are at stake.”

The construction workers are resisting sweeping employer concession demands.

These include:

• Stripping workers of overtime pay for Saturday work, if, because of bad weather, they did not complete 40 of hours work during the regular, five-day working week;

• Slashing the pay rate for…

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