CORNWALL, Ontario – Five union locals along the St. Lawrence Seaway Tuesday gave 72 hours’ strike notice.
“The communities along the Seaway benefit both from the good jobs it provides, and the work our members do to keep the waterway safe,” Unifor National Representative Joel Fournier said.
One of the key issues in the contract talks is staffing levels at the locks as the Seaway moves to hands-free mooring, eliminating the staff currently working on the locks. Unifor is calling for minimum staffing levels on the locks to deal with emergencies.
“We believe that having no one at the lock is not a good idea,” said Fournier. “The risk of an environmental disaster with all of the dangerous cargo going through the Seaway is very real.”
Strike notice was served at the resumption of contract talks in Cornwall, the first time the two sides had met in months.
Unifor filed for federal conciliation in August. The earliest a strike could begin is Friday at 12:15 p.m. The workers earlier voted 96 per cent to support a strike.
“Traffic is up along the Seaway this year. It is difficult for us to understand why the Seaway would risk a work stoppage at this point,” said Fournier.
The 460 members of Unifor along the St. Lawrence Seaway from Niagara to Montreal are in Locals 4212 and 4211 in Niagara and Cornwall, Locals 4319 and 4320 in Montreal and Local 4323 in Iroquois, Ontario.
The Seaway announced in April that it had received funding from the federal government to automate the locks along the Seaway, eliminating the staff currently working on the locks. Work has already begun to retrofit Lock 3 on the Welland Canal with the new hands-free system. All locks across the Seaway are to be retrofitted by 2018.