The drivers involved are affiliated to the Centrale des syndicats démocratiques (Confederation of Democratic Unions) and the Confederation of National Trade Unions. Quebec labor legislation does not recognize the right of independent truckers to be unionized. About 4,000 truckers are on strike; a further 18,000 are affiliated to the Quebec Federation of Labor.
The strikers' main demand is for a decent hourly rate as opposed to being paid by the mile. Trucker Guy L'espérance explained that sometimes they have to wait hours to load or unload, forcing them to put in 60–80 hours a week. After making payments on their trucks and covering maintenance, insurance, and license costs, truckers end up only earning Can$7–8 an hour (Can$1=US$0.67). "Over the years I've lost a truck and two homes. Enough is enough, we have to fight," declared L'espérance.
Other demands include eight hours sleeping time per day when on long hauls, a maximum 10-hour working day, paid statutory holidays, and one month of vacation per year. In Montreal, the truckers have parked their vehicles at the port and at two railway yards.
They are working with the longshoremen's union and the railway unions to prevent the transportation of goods.
With headlines such as "Truckers starve La Tuque, (a city in northern Quebec) and "Basic necessities begin to be scarce," the daily media has led a campaign against the just demands of the truckers. The Parti Quebecois government says that it refuses to negotiate with the truckers as long as they are "starving the population." In taking their decision to defy the injunction, truckers took into account the Quebec nurses strike this past summer. Nurses defied government anti-strike legislation for 23 days but did not win their demands following an agreement by their leadership to return to work as a condition for continuing negotiations.
Joanne Pritchard is a member of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees
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