8/26/07

Scab ships may face more pickets

Safety on the Great Lakes has been put at risk by an American company's decision to bring in replacement workers for three ships that had been stranded all summer in Sarnia, a union official says. Donald Cree, a vice president of the American Maritime Officers (AMO), made that claim Friday, less than 24 hours after the freighter Wolverine sailed out of the north slip on its way to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

The Wolverine is one of three 630-foot long 'river class' self-unloading bulk carriers that were stranded in Sarnia after AMO members walked off them on May 10. The workers took the action after contract talks broke down. A key issue has been job and benefit security. The other two are the David Z and the Earl W, which are expected to sail with replacement workers sometime over the next 45 days.

The ships, which are virtually identical in appearance, are owned by the Wisconsin and Michigan Steamship Company of Lakewood, Ohio, which purchased them from the Oglebay Norton fleet for $18.7 million in 2006. AMO, which represents merchant marine officers and stewards in the U.S., estimates the labour dispute has cost the company $1 million. Cree said the public should be concerned about the latest development.

"They've got the dregs of society working there," he said. "They're scabs, strikebreakers, guys who couldn't hold a job in a legitimate fleet. They're getting no benefits, or minimum benefits at best. It's unsafe."

He added, "we were picketing them yesterday (Thursday) and we'll picket them everywhere they go."

According to the website of the Daily Great Lakes and Seaway Shipping News, the company is operating the Wolverine with "non-union licensed officers."

The company said Friday that no one was available to discuss the issue.

(theobserver.ca)

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