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Should Rail Freight Be Considered An Essential Service?

The Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions says although they’re relieved the CN Rail strike has come to an end, it underlines the need for a new approach to dealing with strikes affecting grain movement.
The union representing over 3,000 CN Rail conductors, trainpersons and yard workers announced on Tuesday, November 26 they’ve reached a tentative agreement with CN Rail.
In a statement, the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions say it’s time to consider applying essential service provisions to rail service affecting grain movement.
“Canada’s longshoremen are already prevented from engaging in strikes that would impact the loading of grain vessels and the commissions believe those same provisions should be extended to rail,” the statement reads.
They say as of the latest report, 35 grain ships were waiting at the Port of Vancouver to load grain, where some of these will eventually incur demurrage penalties, ultimately charged back to farmers
“We still get questions from international customers about the grain backlogs of 2017-18,” Alberta Wheat Commission Chair, Gary Stanford said in a release. “We need to have a national conversation about how we can assure them that we have a reliable supply chain.”
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