On Sunday, the plaintiffs appealed to the Quebec government to act as a months-long standoff between workers and management at Canada’s largest cemetery drags on.
A strike by more than 100 maintenance and office workers has kept the wrought iron gates of the Notre-Dames-des-Neiges cemetery closed to the public since mid-January, except for a few days in the spring.
The labor dispute left more than 300 bodies unburied, with the remains stored in freezing temperatures in an onsite depot, the cemetery said.
Jimmy Koliakoudakis, whose mother died in February, said his family members were “suffering”.
“The families are asking for just a little bit of dignity and humanity involved in this labor dispute,” he said, marching alongside a handful of other protesters outside the cemetery on Sunday afternoon. “We are stuck in the middle.”
“I don’t understand why the government doesn’t take a tougher stance or a more direct step in this labor dispute.
Others saw no choice but to sneak onto the pitch.
Nancy Babalis said she still comes almost every weekend to visit the plot of her 13-year-old son, who died 10 years earlier less a day.
“I sneak out every weekend. I found a place where the fence is higher,” she said. “If it was their child or their loved one there, they would do the same thing I do.”
Babalis called the stalemate and the ongoing shutdown “inhuman”.
A tentative agreement between management and the union of cemetery maintenance employees broke down last month.
Both sides had agreed to support the recommendation of the province’s chief mediator, Quebec Labor Minister Jean Boulet said June 15, calling the potential deal an “excellent development.” But the maintenance union finally rejected it.
Gardeners have been without a collective agreement since 2018, and office workers – who launched the strike in September – have not had one since 2017.
Boulet said in a Twitter post Thursday that the parties would meet with him separately on Monday.
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“This conflict has gone on for far too long and has significant consequences for human dignity and for the families affected,” he wrote.
Cemetery spokesman Daniel Granger said he hoped to find a solution “as soon as possible”.
Waist-high grass and branches felled by an April ice storm cover the grounds of the cemetery, which sprawls along the north side of Mount Royal. A marmot perched on the base of a headstone sat in the overgrown grass on Sunday, the only creature visible on the property.
“Now that all the leaves are on the trees, you don’t see that the branches are broken. We have one, two, three, four tree branches falling every day. It makes it dangerous for people to walk through the cemetery,” Granger said.
“There is a lot of cleaning to be done.
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