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Halifax harbour transshipment facility for imported vehicles hit by strike: Unifor

HALIFAX — More than 230 unionized workers in the Halifax area walked off the job Tuesday at the Autoport, one of North America’s largest transshipment facilities for imported vehicles.

Unifor, the union that represents the workers, issued a statement saying negotiations with the employer began on Sept. 28 and were suspended once the strike deadline was reached.

The union's national president, Lana Payne, said Unifor is open to resuming negotiations, but she said the company has made things difficult by hiring replacement workers.

"Autoport is attempting to strike bust with the use of scabs, some brought in from out of province," her statement said.

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“The planned use of scabs shows Autoport was not serious about reaching a fair agreement … This highlights the need for the federal government to move quickly to pass anti-scab legislation to prevent companies, like Autoport, from trying to bully workers instead of negotiating a fair contract.”

A spokesman for CN Rail, which wholly owns Autoport as a subsidiary, confirmed the facility had "enacted its contingency plan … to protect the continuity of the supply chain."

Thomas Bateman said in an email that work at the facility was expected to continue uninterrupted.

"Autoport remains committed to achieving a fair and negotiated agreement," he said. "The company complies with all laws where it operates, including labour laws."

The sprawling Autoport Ltd. facility on the east side of Halifax harbour handles nearly 185,000 vehicles every year. Virtually all of the vehicles that arrive at the facility are from European manufacturers, including BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Volkswagen and Volvo.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2024.

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version stated CN Rail operates the Autoport. In fact, Autoport is a wholly owned subsidiary of CN Rail.