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Seaway workers take new deal

Unionized employees of the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. voted Wednesday to ratify a new three-year contract, the company reported Thursday.

The agreement between the company and its workers, represented by the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union, provides for annual wage hikes of three, three and 3.25 per cent over the contract period, which runs retroactively from April 1 this year to March 31, 2011. It also gives them an extra paid holiday in February and boosts the shift and skilled-trade allowances, the company said.

A ratified deal is expected to be a relief for Prairie grain shippers, for whom the international waterway is their main eastbound shipping route out of Canada.

The Canadian Wheat Board, for one, had said earlier this month that a work stoppage on the St. Lawrence at this point in the harvest season could harm Canada’s reputation as a reliable supplier. Grain prices could also be pressured downward due to an artificial glut of domestic supply if seaway traffic were to be halted, the CWB said.

At least, “costs to farmers and shippers would be high in terms of contract execution costs, vessel demurrage, logistics and potential lost sales,” CEO Ian White had said.

“New technology”

The seaway management corporation on Thursday said this deal “includes the necessary flexibility for the corporation to move ahead with the development of new technology, which is expected to improve the system’s productivity and increase worker safety.”

The deal “paves the way for continued progress in seaway initiatives to modernize the system” and improve its competitiveness, the company said.

“The corporation has been transparent with respect to its plans to achieve a sustainable business model, and is encouraged by the common ground that we have found with the CAW on critical issues,” said Richard Corfe, the seaway corporation’s CEO, in its release Thursday.

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