The strike could begin in two weeks
By Diego Flammini
Employees at one of Canada’s national railways are prepared to strike.
Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) employees represented by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) voted 96.7 per cent in favour of strike action if the two sides can’t come to an agreement on a new deal.
The TCRC represents about 125,000 Canadians with over 16,000 members working in the railway industry as engineers, conductors, trainspersons and yardpersons.
Union workers voted electronically from Feb. 1 to Feb. 28.
A 96.7 per cent in favour vote means of the 3,062 ballots sent out to workers, 2,960 of them support a strike.
The TCRC served a notice of dispute to Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan on Feb. 10 regarding the situation with CP, citing wages, benefits and pensions as the three main issues at hand.
The minister appointed a mediator to support the two sides in their negotiations.
CP and TCRC are working to avoid any disruptions.
“We will continue to participate in the mediation process with the assistance of (the appointed mediator) with planned dates of Friday, March 11 to Wednesday, March 16, 2022,” TCRC said in a Feb. 28 bulletin.
Union representatives, however, are making arrangements should a strike occur.
“While we are committed to negotiating collective agreements, we must move forward to make the arrangements for a work stoppage if required,” the bulletin says.
CP is ready to engage with TCRC to avoid any work stoppage.
But the negotiations need to be in good faith.
“CP is focused on arriving at a negotiated outcome that is in the best interests of all our employees and their families, our customers, our shareholders and the overall Canadian economy,” CP told Farms.com in an emailed statement. “The TCRC leadership, however, appears poised to force a shutdown of the essential rail supply chain, jeopardizing Canada's national economy, by making unreasonable demands. As a result, a work stoppage at CP could occur in March.”
CP employees last went on strike in 2018.
The strike started and ended on May 30 as the two sides reached a four-year deal and reached a five-year agreement on the Kootenay Valley Railway.
CP is an important transporter of Canadian grain.
The railway transported 30.62 million metric tonnes (MMT) of grain during the 2020-2021 crop year, beating the previous record of 29.52 (MMT).
Farms.com has contacted the ministers of labour and transportation, and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture for comment on the potential strike.