CANADA (WWTI) — Canadian Seaway union workers are on their fourth day of striking.
Workers represented by the Canadian union UNIFOR began an official strike at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, September 22.
These pickets are at locks across the Canadian span of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The loss of these employees has subsequently shut down the international waterway.
However, according to UNIFOR Representative John Hockey, the strike was a “last resort.” The last strike of Seaway union workers was in 1968.
The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation and UNIFOR recently held contract and salary negotiations. However, the two parties were unable to reach an agreement before the union’s strike deadline, which was 12:01 a.m. on October 22.
Hockey stated that union workers were the last party at the bargaining table.
“We did not walk away from the table,” Hockey said during a phone call with ABC50. “[The Seaway Management Corporation] chose to walk away from us.”
The two parties have held several bargaining sessions since June. Hockey said that the over 300 union workers have demanded a fair monetary salary and want the Seaway Corporation to address the “toxic work environment.”
An “orderly shutdown” of the Seaway system took place during the 72-hour notice period. During this time, vessels cleared the waterway, a press release from the SLSMC said. As of October 22, no vessels were waiting to exit the system, but there were over 100 vessels waiting outside the waterway.
On October 24, the SLSMC issued an additional press release. Officials said they “continue to be extremely concerned with the impact the current strike by unionized employees is having on Canadian and U.S. supply chains and economics.
The Great Lakes, including the St. Lawrence Seaway, is the third-largest economy in the world. Many corporations and businesses are concerned on how this strike and subsequent shutdown will impact cargo trade through North America.
“So without ships moving, commerce is essentially stopped,” Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority Economic Development Director Anthony Adamcyzk said in an earlier report. “For the short term, we worry about the cargoes that are currently on the vessels. But long term, we’re concerned about the reputational impact.”
But Hockey emphasized that union workers “need to get what they deserve.”
“We are looking for a fair and equitable monetary settlement that shows value for our members in what they do,” Hockey said. “Workers are tired of people in the ivory tower getting everything.”
UNIFOR and the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation are set to return to the bargaining table on October 27 for mediation in Toronto.
These sessions will be facilitated by the Government of Canada’s Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services.