Welland Canal mayors speak out about resolving work dispute quickly


Published October 24, 2023 at 3:59 pm

Welland Canal ship
The four Niagara area mayors whose municipalities touch on the Welland Canal are calling for a quick settlement of the labour dispute between the St. Lawrence Seaway workers (who walked off the job Sunday) and the management corporation. The workers have been without a contract since March.

No sooner had hundreds of Unifor union workers walked off their jobs with the St. Lawrence Seaway management corporation on Sunday (Oct. 22) than the four Niagara area mayors whose cities touch the Welland Canal were asking them to get back to the negotiation tables.

The strike has effectively shut down the Welland Canal as a shipping route.

Fortunately for the mayors, federal mediators stepped in today (Oct. 24) to order both the union and management back to the negotiation table by Friday (Oct. 27).

Port Colborne Mayor Bill Steele, Welland Mayor Frank Campion, Thorold Mayor Terry Ugulini, and St. Catharines Mayor Mat Siscoe issued a joint letter on Monday (Oct. 23), asking the two sides to come back together for negotiations.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said the St. Lawrence Seaway supports more than 66,000 Canadian jobs and is responsible for $34 million in economic activity per day. “Any work stoppage will damage the Canadian economy, fanning inflation and increasing costs for Canadians,” it added.

Last year, over $16 billion worth of cargo was shipped through the Seaway, which includes the Welland Canal as the only route to ship between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

On the Unifor website, a statement said, “Unifor will comply with the call to mediation and will continue to support our members on the picket line while talks take place. Our goal remains to achieve a fair and reasonable collective agreement for those who work along the St. Lawrence Seaway. We strive to also make sure our members, their rights, and collective agreement are respected by the corporation.”

“Much of Port Colborne’s livelihood hinges on the bustling activity along the Welland Canal,” said Steele.

Ugulini added, “The Welland Canal is a critical piece of marine transportation infrastructure that enables the global movement of goods through the St. Lawrence Seaway System.”

Campion noted that “it is up to all parties involved to continue working together, communicating, and sourcing a fair and expedient outcome to a work stoppage that could have long-lasting consequences.”

Said Siscoe, “The Seaway connects some of the largest inland markets and consumers to the world. A swift and fair contract settlement will ensure our community remains a priority for continued employment and reinvestment.”

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