St. Lawrence Seaway shut down due to strike

The St. Lawrence Seaway shut down on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023 as workers began strike action. Photo via Unifor.

The St. Lawrence Seaway shut down Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, as hundreds of workers walked off the job in a labour dispute.

In a news release issued shortly after midnight on Sunday, Unifor, which represents 361 workers at the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC), said they “negotiated in good faith right up to the last moment.”

Unifor’s Quebec Regional Director, Daniel Cloutier, stated that “we cannot allow workers’ rights to be compromised. We remain open to discussion and hope that the employer will reconsider its position for the good of all.”

In a statement, issued on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023, Cloutier explained that workers are fighting for wage increases, “especially given the current cost of living.”

For its part, the SLSMC claims “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.”

In a media release, SLSMC President and CEO Terence Bowles said “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.”

Seaway workers manage the transit of more than 200 million tons of cargo each year. The SLSMC says that “an orderly shutdown of the system took place” during the 72-hour notice-to-strike 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 that are impacted by the situation.

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