Containers full of consumer goods are set to be unloaded and others to be readied for shipping from the Port of Montreal as about 900 workers return Saturday after reaching a truce with their employers.
The longshoremen voted Friday to accept an interim agreement while their union and the Maritime Employers Association continue to negotiate a full labour contract to replace one that expired at the end of 2008.
"Probably on Saturday morning there won't be any boats in the harbour, but there will be activity because you have to get out containers and bring in those that will be shipped," said Gilles Corriveau, spokesman for the association.
Mr. Corriveau said the first ship could be at the port on Sunday.
The agreement covers conditions for reopening the port, which Mr. Corriveau said includes no more of the pressure tactics by the longshoremen that prompted the lockout.
The workers had refused to accept overtime assignments, which are at the heart of the dispute.
A contract still needs to be negotiated for the longshoremen, who have been working without one since Dec. 31, 2008.
At issue is job security and a system of guaranteed payments when longshoremen are on call and waiting for work.
"The employers are not against that program, they are just saying there are too many people on this program," Mr. Corriveau said.
Businesses were starting to feel the effects of the closure of Canada's second biggest port.
A $20-million project for Cascades Inc. had been threatened with postponement because a paper-making machine was sitting in a container at the port. It's now expected to go ahead.
"It's a relief for us, definitely," said Cascades spokesman Hubert Bolduc. "One thing is for sure, we're very, very happy."
The Quebec Trucking Association had said it feared layoffs in its industry due to the lockout - a manoeuvre that employers can use under certain circumstances, just as workers can go on strike if the two sides can't reach a deal.
Wal-Mart Canada, which sells electronics, toys, clothing and many other goods imported from China, had said it was taking steps to "minimize" the port's closure.
The Port of Montreal says it generates spinoffs of some $2-billion annually, and creates more than 17,600 direct and indirect jobs
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