Staff At The Lift Bridge On Strike

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The Beach Strip
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Sep. 27, 12:59 EDT
Lift-bridge pickets becalm cargo ship
Jennifer Morrison
The Hamilton Spectator


The Rt. Hon. Paul J. Martin bobbed up and down for more than six hours in Lake Ontario waiting to come into Hamilton yesterday.

The massive bulk-carrying cargo ship named in honour of the prime minister's late father was caught offshore in the currents of a labour dispute between civil servants and the federal government.

Striking members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada set up surprise picket lines on the lift bridge yesterday. They'd been tipped off the Canada Steamship Lines carrier was on its way and decided to make a point about stalled negotiations.

"It was kind of spontaneous," said Dave Thomson, a striking bridge worker and Local president. "It's a very strategic move that could cause a lot of disruption."

Rather than putting a stop to all traffic, pickets allowed the bridge to lift every hour -- instead of every half-hour -- for waiting pleasure craft, causing minor delays. They allowed two ships to leave the port, "as long as the Paul Martin stayed out."

"Enough is enough. It's time for them to start doing something," said Bob Black, Canada Revenue Agency strike co-ordinator.

Hamilton police and Halton police marine unit responded to the lift bridge after receiving a call from the ship's captain. They didn't stay for long. After talking to the pickets, Hamilton police Sergeant Al Smethurst said he was satisfied they were being fair.

The Martin was carrying a load of coal from Sandusky, Ohio, for Stelco.

Pickets let the ship through at 1 p.m, more than six hours late.

The lift bridge spans the canal that connects Hamilton Harbour with Lake Ontario.

The harbour relies heavily on freighter traffic, with about 750 vessels entering the port through the nine-month seaway season.

If delays were to become regular, shipping companies and port businesses could stand to take a financial hit.

"The ship traffic coming in and out of the port is crucial to all the operations and businesses," said port authority marketing co-ordinator Brent Kinnaird.

Kinnaird said port officials have spoken with Public Works and they're confident delays can be kept to a minimum.

"What we're being told ... is that management is going to try to continue to keep the bridge operating," he said.

"We should see no real heavy impact or interruption on the service and the ship traffic should continue to move through the canal."

Strategic rotating strikes by federal civil servants started last month when Parks Canada employees walked off the job. Earlier this month, Revenue Canada employees began a series of rotating strikes.

jmorrison@thespec.com

Posted with full permission from the Hamilton Spectator
 
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