Montreal firefighters blocked entry to the Port of Montreal, part of a one-day strike across Quebec by unionized municipal workers who oppose Bill 3 — the province's pension reform plan.
"Nothing is going to make it into the Port of Montreal," union leader Ronald Martin told Radio-Canada on Wednesday.
The Coalition syndicale pour la libre négociation (The Union Coalition for Open Negotiation) is calling the movement "Le Grand Dérangement," or The Great Disturbance.
"We are one week from having this piece of legislation adopted, so we wanted to show we won't stop the battle," said coalition spokesman Marc Ranger.
"Today's the start of a new kind of mobilization for our membership. We're sending the message that yes, the government has the power to put forth this legislation. But we have a power."
Dozens of trucks were lined up at the port Wednesday morning, waiting to get in, and police officers were on the scene, asking workers to clear the entrance to the port.
As well, protesters were in front of a lineup of police officers on the front steps of Montreal city hall.
'Not looking for conflict'
Next door, a few dozen workers assembled at Édifice Lucien-Saulnier, the city's financial headquarters, blocking access to employees who are not on strike.
"In 47 years of existence as a union, this is our first day of any kind of work stoppage," said city employee Pierre Laporte. "We're not people looking for conflict. We're looking for a solution, a negotiated solution."
Police officers also gathered for a rally at their union headquarters.
"They think that once the [bill to reform pensions] becomes law, everything will be OK and will be back to the way it was before," said union president Yves Francoeur. "Do you think we're going to be motivated? Do you think we're going to want to give our time to this police department and to this city administration? No."
About 5,500 municipal workers across Quebec will be on strike, and protest actions are expected to take place all day.
- Quebec aims to reform pension plans of municipal workers
- Hundreds protest against Bill 3 outside Montreal City Hall
- Bill 3 amendments to delay pension plan restructuring proposed
Demonstrations were expected to take place outside the city hall buildings in municipalities across Quebec.
Ranger said he would not unveil any action plans organized by the coalition so as to maintain an element of surprise. He also refused to say whether the protests would affect traffic, public transit or other services.
Some transit users in Montreal rode the bus and subway for free as city buses had sticker pasted over cash boxes and gates at certain subway stations were left wide open.
The government minister sponsoring the pension reform bill, Pierre Moreau, condemned vandalism carried out at his riding office in Châteauguay, southwest of Montreal.
On his Twitter account, Moreau sent a picture of a broken window, calling it "an act of intimidation at my riding office that endangers my staff's safety."
Municipal workers are against the government’s proposed bill to modify their pension plans.
Bill 3, introduced in June, would bring employer and employee contributions to a 50/50 split. It could make city employees pay more, and some retirees might also be on the hook for pension shortfalls in order to make up for a provincewide pension plan deficit of $4 billion.
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