(WASHINGTON) — Just after midnight Saturday, the unionized workers of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. (SLSMC) went on strike, resulting in the shutdown of Canadian portions of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
This is the first time the Seaway has shut down since 1968. Negotiators from the SLSMC and UNIFOR, the workers’ union, had attempted to reach agreement on a new employment contract for several months. The union gave 72-hour strike notification on Wednesday as required under Canadian law.
While many vessels were able to leave the system prior to the shutdown, almost 100 ships are currently impacted – unable to sail east or west through the waterway – depending on their destination. Many have gone to anchor and are awaiting a hopeful resolution of the contract so they can resume their voyages.
Negotiations are continuing daily in an effort to resolve the strike and reopen the Seaway.
As a separate matter, the SLSMC has filed an application with the Canadian Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) asking that Section 87.7(1) of the Canadian Labour Code be applied to this situation. This provision of law gives preferential treatment to grain shipments.
Should the CIRB rule in the SLSMC’s favor, employees would be required to come to work and provide normal service to vessels carrying grain. It is not known how long it will take for the CIRB to issue a ruling.
– American Great Lakes Ports Association