A coalition of thousands of essential workers, union heads and community organizations gathered at Parc Lafontaine Saturday afternoon for International Workers’ Day.
They’re hoping to bring awareness to important societal issues highlighted by the current health crisis.
“We want better rights for health and security at work and better compensation for people who get injury and disease,” said march organizer Felix Lapan.
Lapan adds today’s march was especially important not only because of the ongoing health crisis but because of amendments to Bill-59, Quebec’s Workplace Safety Bill, which was introduced last month by Quebec’s labour minister.
“It’s a huge step backwards for rights of every worker. It’s huge step backward for health and security at work and it’s huge step backward for access to treatment for people who get injured, who get disease at their job and they will have less rights,” he stressed.
Although every union has its demands, some say they feel completely forgotten. Especially those in the education sector.
“Teachers deserve to see their working conditions improve but let’s not forget about all the people who take care of our kids, before and after school,” said Loïc Breton, SEPB-Quebec union president.
At the very front of Saturday’s march were many of Montreal’s longshoremen, who will most likely head back to work in the coming days. They’ve been on strike since April 26.
“We did what we had to do and the senate voted for the law so we have to go back to work,” said one longshoreman. “But people need to know we were never not keeping away non-essential items.”
On Friday, the senate voted to adopt back-to-work legislation that would force over 1,000 workers back on the job at Montreal’s port.
But union head Michel Murray says it’s a shame and there will be consequences for the employer.
“The longshore women and men gonna be more unionized than ever instead of being company people,” he said.
In a statement, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) called Bill-C29 unconstitutional and says it violates fundamental rights protected by the charter.
CUPE says it will challenge the law in court.