Hundreds of municipal workers, mostly firefighters, gathered outside Montreal City Hall Monday evening before the public council meeting to show their discontent over the proposed Bill 3 — which would make changes to their government pensions.
The air was smokey outside City Hall as the public employees waved placards and blew horns before getting inside the building.
The protesters got inside the council chamber minutes before 7 p.m. — when the public meeting was set to begin.
They threw paper — excerpts of their collective agreement — around the chamber, as well as onto the street outside City Hall.
City councillor Marc-André Gadoury says a protester threw water on him and punched him in the side.
Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Mayor Russell Copeman tweeted a picture of the chamber, and called the actions “disgraceful.”
The council meeting was delayed.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said he was proud of all city councillors for deciding to go on with the scheduled council meeting and called the union workers' pressure tactics "unacceptable."
"That kind of intimidation is totally ludicrous. It’s nonsense. It’s totally unacceptable," Coderre said.
"You can blame me, you can be mad at me, you can call me names, you can be against the file — that’s ok. That’s democracy. Talk to me. You can lay out all your arguments. Never touch my city hall and never touch the people."
Hearings on Bill 3 to start this week
The protest comes as hearings into Bill 3 are set to begin on Wednesday in Quebec City.
Municipal workers are upset that they would have to pay a greater share of their pension if the bill is passed in order to make up for a deficit.
The mayors of the island of Montreal's 15 suburban municipalities say municipal pension reform is a necessary step to wrestle down inflated pay packages for city workers.
The suburban mayors have issued their support for Bill 3..
The association’s president and Westmount Mayor Peter Trent said ballooning municipal pension deficits are just part of a larger problem.
“The municipal employees in Quebec make 38 per cent more than the rest of the public sector. That's the problem we're dealing with. A large amount of that difference is comprised of pension fund benefits that are more generous than anyone else's. But it's the overall problem. And how to get that 38 per cent down to a more reasonable number is our challenge,” he said.