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CN, Teamsters reach tentative strike deal, economic fallout still top of mind

MONTREAL - An end to a nationwide rail strike that has gripped the country for eight days is within sight, but concerns linger over the economic fallout.
Canadian National Railway Co. and Teamsters Canada reached a tentative deal Tuesday to renew a collective agreement for more than 3,000 workers, ending a strike that halted shipments, triggered layoffs and disrupted industries across the country.
Normal operations at CN will resume Wednesday at 6 a.m. local time across Canada, the union said.
Details of the settlement agreement, which must be ratified by union members, were not immediately available. Ratification is expected within eight weeks.
CN chief executive JJ Ruest thanked the railway's customers for their patience. "I would also like to personally thank our employees who kept the railroad moving safely at a reduced capacity" — about 10 per cent — Ruest said in a statement.
The union thanked the prime minister for respecting the workers' right to strike and acknowledged the help of federal mediators and the ministers of labour and transportation in reaching the deal.
"This government remained calm and focused on helping parties reach an agreement, and it worked," Teamsters Canada president Francois Laporte said.
The federal government had faced mounting pressure to resolve the strike — either through swift mediation, binding arbitration or back-to-work legislation — as premiers and industry voiced concerns about lost profits and a critical propane shortage in Quebec.
About 3,200 CN conductors, trainpersons and yard workers across the country, who have been without a contract since July 23, walked off the job on Nov. 19 over worries about long hours, fatigue and what they consider dangerous working conditions.
Labour Minister Filomena Tassi and Transport Minister Marc Garneau congratulated the two sides for staying at the bargaining table and reaching a settlement.
"Had we taken an approach like the previous government in deciding to legislate back to work, we would not have had a solution today," Garneau told reporters in Ottawa.
In 2012 federal legislation ended a nine-day strike at Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.
Tuesday's deal came a day after Nutrien Ltd. announced that it would temporarily shut down its largest potash mine, laying off 550 employees in southeastern Saskatchewan for two weeks starting Dec. 2 as a result of the strike. The fertilizer giant said Tuesday the layoffs will go ahead despite the deal.
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