St Lawrence Seaway strike begins

The threatened strike by St Lawrence Seaway Management Co (SLSMC) workers represented by Canada-based union Unifor began at midnight Sunday October 22nd, closing 13 Canadian locks and as such also forcing the closure of the two US locks on the channel.

The strike by the more than 350 workers has blocked ship traffic between the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes.

Both parties said that talks were deadlocked, with no apparent route to a solution.

Unifor National President Lana Payne said she was disappointed at the failure of the employer to make serious movement in the past two days. “This impasse is extremely unfortunate, but our members remain committed to getting a fair agreement.” SLSMC said that the union continued to seek wage increases along the lines achieved by the recent automotive industry negotiations.

SLSMC has said that, despite recent increases in inflation, Seaway workers over the past 20 years had negotiated salaries that the SLSMC said were almost 10% ahead of inflation.

SLSMC was currently waiting for a response to its application to the Canada Industrial Relations Board, seeking a ruling under the Canadian Labour Code for the union to provide employees during a strike, to ensure vessels engaged in the movement of grain continue transiting the system. This ruling is expected to be challenged as there would be potential loopholes that would gain passage for non-grain-related movements.

On Sunday morning there were about 100 vessels affected by the shutdown and awaiting system access, according to SLSMC. Several ships were anchored off the west and east ends of the Welland Canal, as well as the upper portions of the St. Lawrence River.