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A container ship is docked in the Port of Montreal, on Feb. 17, 2021.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

The Shipping Federation of Canada is warning that a potential strike at the Port of Montreal is already having a damaging impact even as negotiations are set to resume Wednesday with the help of mediators.

The trade association representing the interests of ocean-going ships says the threat of a work stoppage is forcing North American importers and exporters to divert large volumes of international cargo away from the port and is causing havoc to supply chains.

The federation says that damage to the local, provincial and national economies would be significant and could not happen at a worse time because of the logistics of delivering medical supplies and equipment in the midst of a pandemic.

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The Maritime Employers Association met last week with the longshoremen’s union affiliated with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

The union representing 1,125 longshoremen and the employer concluded a seven-month truce last August after a 10-day strike that expires March 20.

Talks stumbled last year mainly over the issue of working hours. The collective agreement expired on Dec. 31, 2018.

Last summer, ministers from Quebec and Ontario said about 19,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs depended on the Port of Montreal. Recently, employers and carriers have said they are preparing for the possibility of strike and lockout rights being exercised after that date.

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