The Quebec government has tabled a bill meant to put an end to the province's construction strike and force some 77,000 employees back to work.
Premier Pauline Marois reluctantly moved forward with the back-to-work legislation on Sunday and called the national assembly back from its summer recess for a special sitting.
On her way into the national assembly on Sunday morning, Marois briefly spoke with reporters.
"I am very disappointed to have to go the route of a special law," the premier said, referring to Saturday's failed last-ditch effort to reach a settlment between the unions and the industry.
"Honestly, we really put a lot of work into the negotiations and discussions between the workers and representatives of the construction industry," she said.
The special sitting of the national assembly opened with attacks from the Liberal Party, which criticized the Parti Québécois government for its handling of the strike.
After a few tense moments, deputy Speaker Carole Poirier tried to calm the discussion.
"It's Sunday. Be Zen," she said.
All parties agreed the back-to-work bill is necessary — both the Liberals and the CAQ have been demanding special legislation for several days.
However, the PQ's plan to extend workers' contracts by four years became a sticking point for the opposition parties.
CAQ leader François Legault said he thinks the contracts should only be extended by one year.
"Right now there would be no incentive for the unions to [make] any compromise for four years," he said.
Highlights of Bill 54
- Sends striking employees to return to work as of 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, July 2.
- Extends current contract to April 30, 2017.
- Still allows unions and the employers to return to the table and negotiate a different deal.
- Imposes salary increases totalling 8.6 per cent over four years.
- Imposes fines on any groups or individuals violating the law: $100-$500 for individuals, $7,000-$35,000 for union officers, $25,000-$125,000 for associations.
CBC reporter Shawn Lyons says it's expected to be a long night — the whole process could take up to 20 hours, with a final vote expected Monday morning.
One MNA, Coalition Avenir Québec's Christian Dubé, even showed up with a pillow.
Construction union leaders have said they will respect back-to-work legislation.