October 26, 2023 | Circular No. 11592

Dear Member,

You will find below an update on recent developments and activities related to the ongoing strike in the St. Lawrence Seaway:

Status of Negotiations

  • Negotiations between the SLSMC and UNIFOR will resume tomorrow (October 27) at 10 AM in Toronto under the direction of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and have been scheduled to continue into Saturday and Sunday if a deal has not been reached.
  • We will be closely monitoring any news coming out of the negotiations and will revert to members with all relevant developments.

Application to CIRB Regarding Movement of Grain

  • The SLSMC’s application to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) regarding the ability of grain to continue moving during the strike has now been sent to UNIFOR for a response (which is apparently a normal part of the CIRB process).
  • According to a stakeholder information notice issued by the US Seaway earlier today, the CIRB is not expected to make a ruling on this application until October 28 at the earliest.
  • Also according to the US Seaway,  the SLSMC’s application was written to allow for shipments of both US and Canadian grain, and to include all vessel activity supporting grain movements (including inbound cargoes).

Operational Planning

  • The SLSMC reports that its traffic management team is ready for the resumption of navigation, whenever this may occur.
  • In general terms, ships will move on a first come, first served basis.  There will be some prioritization of certain cargoes on a case-by-case basis – bearing in mind factors such as safety of navigation, pilot availability, etc., as well as the need to adhere to the general principle that once a vessel is moving, it should not stop.
  • The SLSMC will issue more detailed guidance about the vessel traffic order process within the next few days.

Advocacy and Government Relations

We have accelerated our advocacy and government relations efforts over the last several days, which have included the following specific activities:

  • Participation in a meeting earlier today with Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan’s Chief of Staff, which was also attended by les Armateurs du Saint Laurent, SODES and the Chamber of Marine Commerce.  During this meeting, Chris Hall took the opportunity to reiterate the operational and economic impacts of the strike on ocean ships and the industries they serve, the resulting reputational damage that Canada’s trade routes are suffering, and the need for the government to act with far more urgency than it has so far.   We also learned the following from the Minister’s Chief of Staff:
    • The Minister is flying to Toronto tonight in order to be briefed by the chief mediator in the negotiations.
    • Back channel communications have been taking place all week and are still active.
    • Although the Minister is well aware of the pressure to bring the strike to an end, it is unclear when or if his  office will intervene more forcefully than it has to this point.
  • A meeting with the marine policy lead in Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez’s office, during which Chris highlighted the impacts of the strike and need for more active engagement on the part of the government.
  • Ongoing meetings with the recently created National Supply Chain Office in order to seek their involvement in this issue.
  • A meeting earlier today with members of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, at which Chris provided an update on the most recent developments related to the strike.  This is the second such meeting with the Chamber that the Federation has spearheaded.


In addition to our own ongoing communications to relevant government officials, we have also participated in a number of wider industry initiatives.  More specifically, we joined several maritime associations in co-signing an open letter to Ministers O’Regan and Rodriguez that was published in several French and English newspaper on Wednesday (see attached), and we contributed to a full page ad that will be co-signed by a coalition of industry stakeholders and published in this Friday’s edition of the National Post newspaper (we will provide members with a copy of the ad tomorrow once it has been published).


Karen Kancens,
Vice President