St Lawrence Seaway says union has strike mandate

Tue Sep 16, 2008 5:51pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The company that runs the St Lawrence Seaway, the giant waterway that links the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean, said on Tuesday its 445 unionized workers had voted in favor of giving their union a strike mandate but added it hoped to avoid a stoppage.

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp said it "continues to be confident" it can reach a new collective agreement with the Canadian Auto Workers union when talks start up again on October 6.

The union has a mandate to strike with 72 hours' notice at any time after Oct 10. The corporation has a total of 525 employees.

Around 10 to 12 cargo vessels a day use the waterway, which stretches more 374 miles from Montreal to Lake Erie and forms part of the 2,340-mile Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System.

The management corporation, looking to remove clauses from the collective agreement "that impede reasonable flexibility in work rules," wants to introduce new technology and says no job losses will result.

"If the strike proceeds the Seaway will be closed during the period of the strike," said spokesman Andrew Bogora. There have been no strikes in recent decades.

"It's our intention to do everything we can ... to reach an agreement that is satisfactory to our (negotiating) committee and we'll work very, very hard to do that," local CAW representative Mike Menicanin told Reuters by telephone.

"We're certainly not writing this process off," he added, saying he was concerned that the corporation had not yet made a formal proposal to the union on wages, pensions and benefits.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Galloway)