10/02/2011 05:09 EDT | Updated 12/01/2011 05:12 EST

Contracts talks continue to avert St. Lawrence Seaway shutdown

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. - Negotiators are battling the clock as they try to prevent a strike that would shutdown the St. Lawrence Seaway, one of North America's major shipping routes.

Some 450 workers who are members of the Canadian Auto Workers union are set walk off the job at noon on Monday.

CAW spokesperson Shannon Devine informed The Canadian Press by email late Saturday night that the bargaining would continue right up until the strike deadline, if necessary.

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp said Friday that in the event of a strike the Seaway would be closed, in an orderly manner, to all traffic.

The Seaway allows for large freight ships to travel between the Atlantic Ocean and the five Great Lakes — serving some of the most important industrial cities in Canada and the U.S. and providing a route for the export of grain and other commodities.

Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt has urged both sides to reach an agreement, warning that any work stoppage could hurt Canadian businesses and the economy.

Raitt threatened two unions at Air Canada with back-to-work legislation earlier this year, and legislated striking Canada Post workers back to work, citing the impact the job actions would have on the economy.

CAW president Ken Lewenza said the 72-hour notice that was given on Friday was necessary to get contract talks moving in the right direction.

The two sides began negotiating three collective agreements in May and the latest round of negotiations began Sept. 19.