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Unionized workers at an agency that helps foreign ships navigate the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway have walked out of the job, but management says it will strive to ensure the impact on commercial navigation is minimal.

The Union of Canadian Transportation Employees says its 13 members – 10 dispatchers and three office staff – at the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority in Cornwall, Ont., have been on a legal strike since 6 p.m. Monday.

The union says the latest round of bargaining has been “extremely difficult,” and notes the parties have undergone conciliation as well as negotiating with the help of a mediator.

“Our members are vital to the waterway and its operation as a key shipping lane,” Martin Mika, the union’s vice-president for Ontario, said in a statement.

“We are very close to achieving a fair deal and could resolve the situation quickly if the employer addresses our members issues to put an end to the strike.”

A strike vote held last month showed unanimous support for labour action, the union said.

The agency, meanwhile, said it remains committed to providing safe and secure pilotage services to all its customers.

As part of its contingency plan, the agency says management will take over all dispatch and financial responsibilities during the strike.

“We will endeavour to minimize the impact on commercial navigation,” its CEO Michele Bergevin said in a statement.

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