Saskatchewan workers at Canadian grain handler Viterra could be on strike as of Friday afternoon after issuing notice to the company.

The Grain and General Services Union (GSU), which represents 436 employees in Regina and Saskatoon, said it issued a 72-hour strike notice at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

Union and company representatives began meeting for bargaining on Wednesday along with a federally-appointment mediator, with talks set to continue Thursday.

Union spokesperson Steve Torgerson told that the union’s bargaining priorities are “wage increases members can rely on, improvements to work-family balance and health and safety in the workplace.”

“While your bargaining committees express cautious optimism and remain committed to securing the best possible collective agreement, it is prudent to stay prepared for any circumstance,” the union said in a written statement to members on Tuesday.

Viterra said in a press release that the company “may also consider a lockout in the event an agreement cannot be reached” before the 2 p.m. strike deadline on Friday.

"We are committed to the collective bargaining process and remain cautiously optimistic that we will be able to arrive at an agreement with the GSU,” Jordan Jakubowski, Viterra Canada’s vice president of human resources, said in a written statement.

The company said it is committed to workplace safety and "providing its employees with competitive pay and benefits within a performance-based process."

In the event of a work stoppage, the company said it has contingency plans to minimize customer service disruptions.

By Holly McKenzie-Sutter