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Unifor reaches tentative agreement with St. Lawrence Seaway management

St. Lawrence Seaway workers strike outside the St. Lambert Lock in St. Lambert, Que., on Oct. 23. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press - image credit)
St. Lawrence Seaway workers strike outside the St. Lambert Lock in St. Lambert, Que., on Oct. 23. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The union representing striking seaway workers in Ontario and Quebec said Sunday that it has reached a tentative agreement with management.

Unifor, Canada's largest private sector union, said details of the deal will be shared with St. Lawrence Seaway workers before it is made public, and that a member vote will be scheduled in the coming days.

"We have a deal," federal Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan said Sunday on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

"Thank you to the union, the employer, and federal mediators for your commitment to the negotiating table."

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The premiers of Ontario and Quebec had called on Ottawa to intervene if the federally mediated talks failed to bring about a quick end to the walkout.

Thirteen cargo vessels at anchor of Port Dalhousie waiting for the Welland Canal to re-open as St. Lawrence Seaway worker's strike.
Thirteen cargo vessels at anchor of Port Dalhousie waiting for the Welland Canal to re-open as St. Lawrence Seaway worker's strike.

Cargo vessels are seen anchored in St. Catharines, Ont., earlier this week amid the St. Lawrence Seaway workers' strike. (Patrick Morrell/CBC News)

More than 360 St. Lawrence Seaway workers started striking on Oct. 22, shutting down a marine shipping route between Lake Erie and Montreal that connects the Atlantic Ocean and Great Lakes. Ships have been left floating, waiting to pass through.

Unifor's national president, Lana Payne, told reporters that workers want higher wages and for the company to address "a toxic workplace."

St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. says it will begin to implement its recovery program immediately and will start "passing ships progressively" as of Monday.

It says employees will be back on the job by 7 a.m. ET.

Aerial (drone) images of the Welland Canal empty of marine traffic, due to a strike by St. Lawrence Seaway workers
Aerial (drone) images of the Welland Canal empty of marine traffic, due to a strike by St. Lawrence Seaway workers

An aerial view shows the Welland Canal, part of the St. Lawrence Seaway, in St. Catherines. (Patrick Morrell/CBC News)

The full Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway system, also known as Highway H2O, serves more than 100 ports and commercial docks and helps Canada's Prairie provinces and the U.S. Midwest export goods. Key cargo includes grain, iron ore, petroleum products, stone and coal.

A 2018 study by Martin Associates found that goods moving through the system supported more than 78,000 direct jobs and generated $35 billion in revenue in both Canada and the U.S.

Last year, the 300-kilometre St. Lawrence Seaway stretch carried more than 180 million tonnes of goods worth about $16.7 billion — nearly half of it grain and iron ore.

The striking employees work at 13 of the 15 locks — which raise and lower watercraft between areas of different depths — along the trade route in maintenance, operations and supervisory roles.