Canada's Seaway Strike Impacts 115 Vessels in Great Lakes Route

October 23, 2023

© Joe / Adobe Stock
© Joe / Adobe Stock

A strike in Canada's St. Lawrence Seaway entered its second day on Monday after workers walked off over a wage dispute, shutting down an important maritime trade route linking the Great Lakes to Montreal port and impacting about 115 vessels.

Some 361 workers represented by the Unifor union went on strike on Sunday after failing to negotiate a new labor contract with the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp (SLSMC), which along with a U.S. body operates the waterway linking the Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.

Vessels were moved out of the 13 locks operated by SLSMC between the Port of Montreal and Lake Erie during the union's 72-hour strike notice, though some 115 vessels outside the waterway system were impacted as of Monday morning.

The strike, which is expected to slow the movement of grains and other commodities, has impacted C$34 million ($25 million) in daily economic activity and could disrupt supply chains, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said on Monday, calling on the federal government to intervene.

"While we respect the right to collective bargaining and sincerely believe the best deals are reached at the table, Canada's economy and our supply chains cannot afford another strike," the industry body said in a statement.

Unifor recently secured a new contract for its striking workers at General Motors, which included base hourly wage increases of nearly 20% for production and 25% for skilled trades over the lifetime of three-year agreement.

Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan has urged the union and management to resume negotiations and to reach an agreement as soon as possible. O'Regan said he and Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez spoke to the parties on Sunday.

The seaway strike follows a 13-day walkout in July at some of Canada's busiest ports that impacted trade and weighed on the economy.

SLSMC, in a statement on Monday, said it was "committed to continuing discussions at the table and reaching a fair labor agreement."

Unifor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


($1 = 1.3691 Canadian dollars)

(Reuters - Reporting by Ismail Shakil; Editing by David Holmes)

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