October 16, 2023 | Circular No. 11584

Dear Member,

Further to CL 11581, you will find below an update on the labour situation in the St. Lawrence Seaway:

SLSMC User Information Meeting

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) provided users with an update on the labour situation at an information meeting held earlier today.  More specifically, the SLSMC reported that negotiations with the union are continuing through a conciliation process, with a goal of reaching a negotiated settlement as soon as possible.  The earliest the union could issue a strike notice is at 0001 hours on Wednesday, October 18, which means that the earliest date on which a work stoppage could occur is at 0001 hours on Saturday, October 21.  The Seaway will be holding another call at 8:30 AM Tuesday morning (EST), for which users should expect to receive an invitation later today. If you do not receive an invitation for this meeting but would like to attend, please contact Farah Ahmad (fahmad@shipfed.ca) and she will add you to the list.

Work Stoppage Scenarios

There appear to be a  number of scenarios under which the Seaway could potentially maintain a reduced level of service in the event that a full work stoppage does occur.  However, given that each of these scenarios comes with its own set of challenges, it is currently unclear which, if any, could be realistically implemented should the need arise. We continue to engage in discussions with the Seaway on this issue and will provide more concrete information as this becomes available.

Grain as an Essential Service

Section 87.7 (1) of the Canada Labour Code provides that any striking workers to whom the Code applies would be obliged to continue to provide normal service to ensure the “tie-up, let-go and loading of grain vessels at licensed terminal and transfer elevators, and the movement of grain vessels in and out of a port.”  We are seeking clarification on the applicability of this clause to Seaway workers and the mechanism by which it could be implemented  if necessary.

SFC Actions

We have raised the Seaway labour situation with the Executive Director of Transport Canada’s newly created Supply Chain Office, with a view communicating its potential impacts on the reliability of one of Canada’s major trade routes.   We will be engaging in further dialogue with both Transport Canada and Labour Canada on this matter in the coming days.

Although we remain optimistic that the SLSMC and the union will reach a negotiated settlement, we are ready to launch a call for swift action and / or intervention by the federal government should it become clear that a work stoppage is imminent.

We will continue to monitor this situation and report back to members with new development as warranted.


Chris Hall
President & CEO