MONTREAL - Wine from Europe, imported sofas and some merchandise destined for Wal-Mart are among the numerous imported consumer goods affected by a lockout that began Monday at the Port of Montreal.

"Between 70 and 80 per cent of the goods that you consume go through the Port of Montreal for the province of Quebec and Eastern Canada," said Gilles Corriveau, spokesman for Maritime Employers Association, which issued the lockout.

Commercial operations at the Port of Montreal essentially came to a halt after 900 longshoremen were locked out by the employers group over pressure tactics related to contract negotiations.

"Will Wal-Mart take other measures to go around that situation, I am sure they will," Corriveau said, noting the retail giant's goods are unloaded from containers at the port and then put on a truck or train.

Corriveau said the lockout will cost "millions of dollars a day."

The issue for the union is job security, as well as keeping guaranteed payments when longshoremen are on call and waiting for work.

Union spokesman Michel Murray said 169 longshoremen with the least seniority recently had their guaranteed pay cut and union members responded to the change by working less overtime.

"It was cut by the employer as a pressure measure," Murray said, adding the longshoremen affected had two and three years' seniority.

Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt issued a statement saying she was "disappointed" that both sides were unable to reach an agreement in the dispute.

"I urge the parties to resume bargaining and reach a negotiated settlement as soon as possible," she said, adding the federal government will continue to monitor the situation.

The Port of Montreal, the second largest after the Port of Vancouver, says it generates spinoffs of some $2 billion annually, and creates more than 17,600 direct and indirect jobs.

The longshoremen, who unload shipping containers full of goods at the port, have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2008.

Murray said the revenue agreement had been a long-time arrangement in their contract and longshoreman have always been available to work as a result.

"The Port of Montreal longshoremen are available 24/7, 365 days a year," Murray told a news conference held by the Longshoreman's Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Corriveau said their job and revenue security costs more than $10 million a year, and that there are now too many workers on call that aren't doing any work.

"If they're not called, they are (still) fully paid," he said.

"This is a measure we cannot accept anymore because it blows the fees way out of proportion. You need to have people waiting just in case you need them, but the amount of people we have now (waiting) is way too much for the activity there is."

Murray called the lockout "incomprehensible" and "needless."

"The best way to disturb the smooth functioning of the port, is to put on locks and chase away the workers," he said.

"The solution is for the employer to let the work get done, both at the port and the negotiating table."

During the first half of 2010, traffic through the Port of Montreal returned to pre-recession levels, reaching about 11.8 million tonnes in the first six months of 2010.

The two main drivers of growth were containerized cargo and iron ore, the port had said.