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St. Lawrence Seaway Strike Begins, Impacting Key Shipping Route

A strike by workers along the St. Lawrence Seaway has begun, impacting a key North American trade corridor.

The St. Lawrence Seaway shutdown on Sunday (Oct. 22) after hundreds of workers walked off the job at midnight as negotiations aimed at reaching a new collective agreement failed.

Unifor, the union representing 360 striking workers, said that it remains miles apart from management on the key issue of wage increases.

St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. has said that the union's salary demands could lead to higher tolls for businesses shipping goods through the seaway and into the Great Lakes.

In 2022, $16.7 billion worth of cargo — nearly half of it grain and iron ore — traveled through the St. Lawrence Seaway, a canal system that stretches more than 300 kilometres.

The strike is expected to affect cargo shipments between Montreal and Lake Erie.

Business groups have been quick to call on federal officials in Ottawa to intervene and force an end to the strike.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) says the strike comes at a time when small businesses are struggling with other challenges such as inflation and labour shortages.

Many Canadian businesses are still recovering from the 13-day strike in July at shipping ports throughout British Columbia, which cost the Canadian economy billions of dollars.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce says that the St. Lawrence Seaway supports 66,000 jobs indirectly and is responsible for $34 million a day in economic activity.

On social media, federal Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez urged the union and management to return to the bargaining table.

Workers for the St. Lawrence Seaway have set-up picket lines in Montreal, Quebec, and St. Catharine's, Ontario.