Contract talks are scheduled to resume next week between the Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) and members of three Unifor locals in Ontario and Quebec representing workers along the vital waterway.
"We are looking forward to getting back to the table and reaching a deal that is fair to all," said Joel Fournier, Unifor National Representative.
The two sides have not met since talks broke off in April. Unifor filed for federal conciliation in August, but the SLSMC has reportedly refused to meet until now. The talks are set to resume Tuesday, October 28 in Cornwall, Ontario.
"Transits are up this year on the Seaway. Why the Seaway would refuse to negotiate with the union up to this point, and risk having a work stoppage is difficult to understand," 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 workers have voted 96 per cent in favour of striking, if that becomes necessary.
The Seaway announced in April that it had received funding from the federal government to automate the locks along the Seaway, eliminating some of the staff currently working on the SLSMC operated St. Lawrence Seaway locks in Canada.
Work has already begun to retrofit Lock 3 on the Welland Canal with the new automated mooring system. All locks across the Seaway are to be retrofitted by 2018. Unifor would like to see minimum staffing levels maintained on the locks as a safety measure and to ensure good jobs remain for future generations.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 305,000 workers. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged.