The St. Lawrence Seaway has shut down as hundreds of workers walked off the job yesterday, affecting cargo shipments immediately along the artery that runs between Montreal and Lake Erie. In a release shortly after midnight Sunday, the union said they were unable to reach an agreement with the employer by the strike deadline, despite negotiations “right up to the last moment.”The union said this week that it remained “1,000 nautical miles apart” from management on wages and that it was up to the employer to avoid any transit disruption.In its own statement, the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation said the parties are at an impasse as Unifor “continues to insist on wage increases inspired by automotive-type negotiations,” and the Seaway will remain shut down until an agreement can be reached. Some 360 workers ranging from engineers to administrators comprise the five union locals who were in negotiations with the management authority.Talks began in June with the help of a federal mediator, and continued after Unifor issued a 72-hour strike notice to the employer on Wednesday.
Business groups are urging the federal government to intervene to avoid a lengthy labour dispute at the St. Lawrence Seaway amid concerns that a strike that began early yesterday could have a profound affect on their members. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says strike-related delays could result in lost sales and revenue at a time when small businesses are already dealing with other challenges like inflation and labour shortages. And the Canadian Chamber of Commerce notes that the seaway supports 66,000 jobs and is responsible for $34 million in economic activity daily, so any stoppage will hurt the economy.
Workers set up pickets Sunday in St. Catharines and in St-Lambert, just south of Montreal.Both sides have accused the other of withdrawing from the negotiating table.