Quebec | A FEQ without its boats

After last year’s bus drivers’ strike, the Festival d’été de Québec (FEQ) coincides this year with another labour dispute. This time, the ferries are docked, much to the dismay of festival-goers in Lévis.


Published at 1:37 a.m.

Updated at 5:00 a.m.



Why are employees going on strike?

The approximately 120 unlicensed employees of the ferry between Quebec and Lévis began a strike on Friday, which will last until July 15 if no agreement is reached. These unlicensed employees include sailors, guards, moorers, sales station employees, welders and ship repairers.

“Essentially, it’s the hourly rates that are not adjusted to the market rate. Here, the average rate is $21.48, at the top of the scales,” says Patrick Saint-Laurent, the union representative for workers on the Quebec-Lévis ferry, on the phone.

These union members affiliated with the CSN had announced to the employer, the Société des traversiers du Québec (STQ), their intention to strike 30 days ago. According to them, the announcement did not speed up negotiations.

“It’s very disappointing. The employer only met with us yesterday, July 4. The offer at the table did not bring the parties together. We question the seriousness of the offer, we did not feel the will to settle. The employer even added setbacks!”, according to Mr. Saint-Laurent.

The STQ did not accept our interview request, but maintained in a statement that it wanted to speed up negotiations. “The STQ remains available at all times. The STQ is currently doing everything it can to speed up the negotiation process and minimize the impact on customers.”

Why at the same time as the FEQ?

IMAGE TAKEN FROM THE DESTINATION QUÉBEC CITÉ WEBSITE

Map of the Quebec-Lévis crossing

This is not the first strike to occur during the FEQ, which this year takes place from July 4 to 14. Last year, drivers of the Réseau de transport de la Capitale (RTC) announced a strike in the middle of the festival. The conflict was resolved during the night, a few hours before the start of the FEQ.

The bus drivers’ success seems to be inspiring other workers. This year, STQ employees aren’t the only ones to coincide their pressure tactics with the event. Blue-collar workers in Quebec City have announced a six-day strike, from July 10 to 15. These employees are the ones who are notably removing garbage from the festival site.

The strike therefore means that the ferries that usually provide round-trip services, a particularly popular service during the festival, will remain docked. “The problem with hourly rates at the STQ is major,” notes Mr. Saint-Laurent. “It will take significant increases in hourly rates. So the pressure tactics must be proportional to the size of the task.”

“We may wonder why the RTC was able to settle before the FEQ, but the STQ was unable to do so,” the union representative raises.

Repercussions in Lévis

PHOTO EDOUARD PLANTE-FRÉCHETTE, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Martin Vaillancourt, president and master brewer at the Le Corsaire microbrewery

“It’s going to affect us quite a bit,” says Martin Vaillancourt, owner of the Le Corsaire microbrewery.

Mr. Vaillancourt’s establishment is located a stone’s throw from the ferry between Quebec and Lévis. On FEQ days, he can see festival-goers lining up waiting for the boat.

Some of them will have a beer in his shop before leaving. But he is especially worried about the drop in the number of tourists who take the North Shore ferry to see Old Quebec on the other side of the river.

“We’re definitely going to lose a lot of customers. Tourists come to us, take a picture of the Old Man, eat a bite, have a beer and leave…”

“I hope it will be resolved, because it is annoying for festival-goers and for customers. We have one of the most beautiful spots to see the city of Quebec.”

The ferry is popular for getting to the FEQ from Lévis for several reasons. Parking is scarce in Quebec City on show nights. Leaving your car in Lévis, boarding the boat and disembarking a few minutes’ walk from the FEQ site is extremely convenient.

What plan B for festival-goers?

The ferry takes 12 minutes to cover the kilometre that separates the two shores. Lévis festival-goers who are used to taking the boat will not have such a quick plan B. However, the Société de transport de Lévis has increased the frequency of its buses to return to the South Shore, from 10 p.m. to 1:20 a.m.

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