Quebec sends construction workers back to work

Quebec's two-week long construction strike is over after a marathon 13-hour special meeting of the national assembly on Sunday night ended with back-to-work legislation.

Construction unions 'extremely disappointed' with back-to-work legislation

Quebec premier Pauline Marois speaks during a meeting of the national assembly to table back-to-work legislation, which ended a two-week long construction strike. (Jacques Boissinot/CBC)

Quebec’s two-week long construction strike is over after a marathon 13-hour emergency sitting of the national assembly on Sunday night ended with back-to-work legislation.

Members of the national assembly voted just after midnight to send Quebec’s 77,000 industrial and commercial construction workers back to their respective job sites, but it wasn’t without compromise.

The Parti Québécois government initially wanted to extend the employees’ last contract for four years and give them an 8.6 per cent raise over that period. However, the opposition Liberals and Coalition Avenir Quebec teamed up and forced an amendment dropping it to one year.

CAQ leader François Legault said the goal was to force the two sides to push ahead and reach a negotiated settlement.

"We are happy to have a minority government tonight," he said late Sunday night.

"We were able to get the support of the Liberal party to our proposal, and we were able to have the government change its mind."

Liberal leader Philippe Couillard said the move would force both sides to work faster to reach a settlement — if the PQ takes the appropriate steps.

"My advice to the government is, in the coming days, they must start being much more active," he said.

"Not being involved in the nitty-gritty negotiations, but providing an environment that will make a settlement more likely."

Although Premier Pauline Marois said one year isn’t nearly long enough to resolve some vast differences on issues like labour mobility, she said she was happy the strike would end.

"I think it will take some time to have a calm between these two partners. We think one year is a little bit too short," Marois said.

The deal gives the employees a 2 per cent raise over the next year.

Yves Ouellet, spokesman for the alliance of unions representing Quebec's construction workers, had strong words for Quebec's MNAs and their back-to-work legislation.

"I'm extremely disappointed," he said at a Monday afternoon news conference in Anjou.

"The special law removes the right to strike."

He criticized the government, saying it folded to the interests of the likes of Quebec employers' group le Conseil du patronat.

"The debate at the national assembly was one of the worst ventriloquist performances I've ever seen in my life," Ouellet said.

The back-to-work legislation comes with stiff fines for any individuals or groups that disobey the ruling. 

Ouellet said construction workers will respect the law.

Construction sites are set to resume operations as of 6:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.