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Thunder Bay grainhandlers give strike notice

Workers could walk out on Saturday but their union is requesting more talks with elevator operators
(Thunder Bay Port Authority photo)

About 180 grainhandlers working for the three companies that operate grain terminals on the Thunder Bay waterfront are poised to go on strike in a few days.

But a spokesperson for their union, the United Steelworkers, said May 17 he's still hoping a walkout at terminals owned by Viterra, Richardson and Superior Elevator can be averted.

District 6 staff representative Herb Daniher said talks broke off last week, and union members voted to reject the companies' final offer.

On Tuesday night, the union gave the required 72-hour notice of a strike date, which means it could withdraw its services on Saturday morning.

"We basically are getting ourselves into position to commence legal strike action. However, we've also asked the companies to come back to the table and do the bargaining," Daniher said.

He said the union will be in touch with a federal mediator for assistance in getting negotiations restarted.

"The critical part of this is that we want to get back to the table and try to hammer out an agreement with the employer. That's really the objective."

Daniher noted that it's been at least 20 years since local grainhandlers have gone on strike. He said the outstanding issues in dispute revolve around "cost-of-living issues" and pensions.

The previous collective agreement expired on Feb. 1.