Seaway shuts down as strike begins

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by Emily Atkins

Negotiations between the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) and Unifor broke down on the weekend, and the workers began a legal strike.

The Seaway is now closed to navigation until an agreement can be reached, the SLSMC said in a statement.

The SLSMC and Unifor engaged in negotiations starting on October 17th, but were unable to reach an agreement before the Unifor strike deadline set for 00:01 on October 22nd. Unifor  locals 4211, 4319, 4212, 4323 and 4320 are now on strike.

According to an SLSMC statement, the parties are at an impasse as UNIFOR “continues to insist on wage increases inspired by automotive-type negotiations, while the SLSMC works to find a fair and competitive labour agreement that balances wage demands and market realities.”

“The stakes are high, and we are fully dedicated to finding a resolution that serves the interests of the Corporation and its employees. We remain committed to continuing discussions and reaching a fair labour agreement,” stated Terence Bowles, SLSMC president and CEO.

“In these economically and geopolitically critical times, it is important that the Seaway remains a reliable transportation route for the efficient movement of essential cargoes between North America and the remainder of the world.”

The SLSMC is awaiting a response to its Canada Industrial Relations Board application, seeking a ruling under the Canada Labour Code for the Union to provide employees during a strike to ensure vessels engaged in the movement of grain continue transiting the system.

An orderly shutdown of the system took place during the 72-hour notice period allowing for vessels to safely clear the Seaway system, and the Corporation remains in regular contact with the marine industry. Currently, there are no vessels waiting to exit the system, but there are over
100 vessels outside the system, which are impacted by the situation.

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation was established in 1998 as a not-for-profit corporation by the Government of Canada, Seaway users and other key stakeholders. In accordance with provisions of the Canada Marine Act, the Corporation manages and operates
the Canadian assets of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Since the St. Lawrence Seaway’s inception in 1959, more than 3 billion tonnes of cargo has been transported via the waterway.