Quebec crane operators return to work after ‘illegal’ one-week strike

Construction cranes were at a standstill for nearly a week. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Thousands of crane operators returned to work Tuesday after taking part in what authorities described as an illegal strike that lasted one week and disrupted construction sites across Quebec.

Crane operators were protesting new training requirements allowing workers to operate the machines without first obtaining a vocational diploma.

READ MORE: Quebec crane operators continue strike despite order to return to work

Their union says the new program is less comprehensive and could lead to a rise in workplace accidents.

Quebec’s construction commission, which enforces laws governing the industry, says the training program is the result of consultations with crane operators as well as the agency that oversees workplace safety, which supports the changes.

The commission called the strike illegal because it is against the law for employees to strike while a collective agreement is in force.

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READ MORE: Quebec premier urges crane operators back to work as ‘illegal’ strike continues

Work resumed at various sites after a senior union official published a letter late Monday calling on crane operators to cease all work slowdowns or strike actions.

Evans Dupuis noted in his letter the union was not abandoning its demands, especially those relating to the health, safety and integrity of workers and the public.

READ MORE: Crane operators protest in front of Couillard’s Montreal office

Labour Minister Dominique Vien said the Quebec government would meet union representatives in order to discuss the new training progam and added an independent committee would be created to study the safety concerns raised by workers.

The consequences of the illegal strike for workers and union representatives are still unclear as they are both subject to hefty fines for the one-week work stoppage.

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