The lockout will begin March 20 if CP and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference can’t come to a new agreement
By Diego Flammini
One of Canada’s national railways will lock out its employees beginning Sunday if it can’t come to a new deal with the union representing its employees.
Canadian Pacific (CP) issued a 72-hour notice to the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) on March 16 that a lockout will begin on March 20.
This action would affect close to 3,000 employees.
Earlier in the month, CP employees voted 96.7 per cent in favour of taking strike action if a fair deal isn’t negotiated.
A lockout differs from a strike because a lockout is meant to put pressure on the employees whereas a strike is designed to put pressure on the employer.
CP issued the lockout notice the same day the TCRC rejected the company’s latest contract offer.
Since negotiations started in September, CP employees cited wages, benefits, and pensions as three main issues.
The company’s most recent offer “addressed a total of 26 outstanding issues between the parties, including an offer to resolve the TCRC’s key issues of wages, benefits and pensions through final and binding arbitration,” CP said.
Employees rejected the offer because the company isn’t taking employee interests into account.
“At the bargaining table, CP continues to dismiss our members’ demands and are unwilling to negotiate the issues they have created,” Dave Fulton, spokesperson for TCRC, said in a March 16 statement. “We remain committed to reaching an acceptable agreement that addresses our members issues. Our members are fully engaged and will be ready in the event CP carries out the notice.”
Industry groups are concerned with the looming lockout.
Canada is still feeling the effects of the pandemic, and global issues are putting additional stress on supply chains, said John Schmeiser, CEO of the Western Equipment Dealers Association.
“We’re paying attention to it and the reality is we don’t need a disruption like this,” he told Farms.com. “We still have supply chain issues and ships backed up at ports. We rely on rail to move so much in this country, we don’t need another level of uncertainty in the marketplace.”
Both sides need to come to an agreement soon, said John Barlow, the Conservative ag critic.
"To do this when we are already in a critical situation within our supply chain, I think is extremely tone-deaf. And there will be zero sympathy for the union or for CP rail. So, they had better resolve this as quickly as possible,” he said, Steinbach Online reported on March 15.
Canada’s labour minister is aware of the lockout notice and is keeping an eye on the situation with his transportation colleague.
Transport Minister “Omar Alghabra, and I understand the impacts of a potential work stoppage and are monitoring the situation closely. We are encouraged to see that both parties are still negotiating. We have been in touch with the parties directly, urging them to work together to resolve their issues and reach a deal as quickly as possible, and will continue to do so,” Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan said in a March 16 statement.
“The government strongly encourages both parties to consider making the compromises necessary to reach a deal that is fair for workers and the employer. Canadians have worked together throughout the pandemic to find solutions to our collective challenges. They expect the same from such actors in our national economy.”
Provincial politicians are asking the federal government to take action to ensure service continues.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe is asking the Trudeau government to declare rail an essential service.
Under the Public Service Labour Relations Act, multiple Government of Canada industries and services are deemed essential.
These include correctional services and national security.
Under the law, “employees who occupy designated positions are prohibited from participating in a strike and must report to work.”
Declaring rail an essential service would ensure the movement of goods while negotiations continue.
“In no way does this undermine the negotiations that happen in any collective bargaining, but it would preserve that service and the continuity of that service for our province and for all Canadians,” he said Wednesday, the Regina Leader-Post reported.
Farms.com has contacted multiple industry groups for comment.
A spokesperson for the Canadian Federation of Agriculture indicated the organization plans to release a statement Thursday.