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Canadian workers reach deal to end strike that shut down Great Lakes shipping artery

Striking St. Lawrence Seaway workers picket outside the St. Lambert Lock in St. Lambert, Quebec, Monday, Oct. 23, 2023.
Graham Hughes
Striking St. Lawrence Seaway workers picket outside the St. Lambert Lock in St. Lambert, Quebec, Monday, Oct. 23, 2023.

MINNEAPOLIS — A deal was reached Sunday to end a week-long strike that had shut down a major shipping artery in the Great Lakes, halting the flow of grain and other goods from the U.S. and Canada.

Around 360 workers in Ontario and Quebec with Unifor, Canada's largest private-sector union, walked out Oct. 22 in a dispute over wages with the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp.

Seaway Management said ships will start moving again when employees return to work at 7 a.m. Monday.

"We have in hand an agreement that's fair for workers and secures a strong and stable future for the Seaway," CEO Terence Bowles said in a statement Sunday.

Unifor said a vote to ratify the deal will be scheduled in the coming days.

"Details of the tentative agreement will first be shared with members and will be made public once an agreement is ratified," said a union statement.

The strike shut down 13 locks on the seaway between Lake Erie and Montreal, bottling up ships in the Great Lakes and preventing more ships from coming in.

The St. Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes are part of a system of locks, canals, rivers and lakes that stretches more than 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers) from the Atlantic Ocean to the western tip of Lake Superior in Minnesota and Wisconsin. It carried over $12 billion (nearly $17 billion Canadian) worth of cargo last year. Ships that travel it include oceangoing "salties" and "lakers" that stick to the lakes.

It's the first time that a strike has shut down the vital shipping artery since 1968.

The Chamber of Marine Commerce estimated that the strike, which took place during one of the busiest times of the year for the seaway, caused the loss of up to $100 million per day in economic activity across Canada and the U.S.

"We are pleased that this interruption in vital Seaway traffic has come to an end, and we can focus once more on meeting the needs of consumers around the world," chamber president Bruce Burrows said in a statement Sunday.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press
[Copyright 2024 NPR]