Seaway dispatchers, clerical workers on strike

CORNWALL – Office staff and dispatchers for the St. Lawrence Seaway are on strike.

The members of the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees – part of the Public Service Alliance of Canada – who work for the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority (GLPA), hit the bricks at 6 p.m. Monday.

They are out on the picket line today (Tuesday) outside 202 Pitt Street. The Great Lakes Pilotage Authority is on the second floor of the seaway building and leases space from the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation. The GLPA is an independent entity.

The union says the 13 workers in Cornwall – 10 dispatchers and three office staff – have been without a contract since June 2016.

Public Service Alliance of Canada says bargaining has “been extremely difficult” and has gone through conciliation and talks had continued with a mediator up until the strike.

“Our members are vital to the waterway and its operation as a key shipping lane,” UCTE Regional Vice President Martin Mika said. “We are very close to achieving a fair deal and could resolve the situation quickly if the employer addresses our members issues to put an end to the strike.”

In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch, Mika says they reached an impasse last week after they received the employer’s final offer.

He says the outstanding issue is wages and that the offer was “not quite at that level” of parity the other employer groups – the pilots who are not under PSAC.

Mika “doesn’t anticipate this being a long strike” and they are willing to return to bargaining.

In a statement to Cornwall Newswatch, Transport Canada says it’s monitoring the situation and “is urging the parties to continue to work together to reach a negotiated settlement.”

“As a Crown Corporation, the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority operates at arm’s length from the Government of Canada and is responsible for managing its operations, which includes undertaking negotiations with representatives from its employee groups,” spokesman Annie Joannette wrote.