Canadian intermodal shippers could see a reduction in Canadian Pacific Railway service if a union representing 3,300 locomotive engineers, conductors and train workers follow through with their threat to strike later this week if the railroad doesn’t meet their contract demands.
Teamsters Canada Rail Conference-Running Trades on Tuesday gave the railroad official notice of its intention to strike as soon as midnight Feb. 15. If union workers walk off the job, CP said it will implement its contingency of replacing them with “qualified management employees” in order to “maintain a reduced freight service on its Canadian network.” The railroad has been training desk workers and managers to run trains.
The two sides began bargaining on a new contract a year before it expired last December. But talks have broken down over working conditions, namely CP’s refusal to honor collective agreements requiring train crews to rest after 10 straight hours of work, TRPC President Doug Finnson said in a statement. He also accused the railroad of not giving the majority of union members “accurate information on when they are required to work.”
“CP’s offers included wage increases, better benefit plans, and the reinstatement of the Employee Share Purchase Plan in a long-term agreement,” Peter Edwards, the railroad’s vice president of human resources and labor relations, said in a statement. “We also proposed a model that will improve the scheduling of regular time off and quality of life while enhancing our service and efficiency, but the union has not been interested.”
CP also said the strike notice violates the union’s commitment to keep working so that grain exporters can get keep moving their shipments.
With the help of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services, the two sides are in Montreal trying to work out a deal. If a deal isn’t reached, Ottawa will likely pass back-to-work legislation, as legislators took that approach in 2012 when Teamsters Canada Rail Conference workers struck for nine days, Wayne Benedict, a labor lawyer and former railroad worker, told CBC News. But CP still suffered a hefty backlog of cargo before the back-to-work legislation took effect.