CP rail service likely to be disrupted May 23 [Updated]

by Array

CALGARY, Alberta and LAVAL, Quebec: As of Tuesday morning, May 22, CP management and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) appear to be heading for a strike beginning tomorrow.

As reported previously, in April, 4,800 conductors, trainmen, yardmen, locomotive engineers and rail traffic controllers at CP voted 95 percent in favour of giving their union, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), the right to take job action against their employer. Over the weekend, the TCRC gave CP a 72-hour notice that a strike would begin at May 23, 2012 at 12:01AM.

CP has acknowledged the notice and is putting plans in place to deal with repercussions from the strike.

“In the event there is a work stoppage, CP will proceed with a safe and structured shut down of its train operations in Canada,” the company said in a statement.

According to the union, the intention is to disrupt freight traffic across the rail network, and not impede commuter services.

“We wrote to CP indicating that we would continue operating the commuter train service on all the lines without disruption,” said Doug Finnson, vice-president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), who is representing CP’s workers. “CP has written to us indicating they will not operate commuter trains in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.”

CP is already taking steps to prevent a backlog of international freight cargo from piling up. The company put out a notice to its customers stating: “CP has taken steps an embargo application for shipments routing on CP from US to Canadian destinations has been initiated in order to prevent severe congestion to CP’s US operations. Applying to all traffic that is billed to CP Canadian destinations from CP or any other rail carrier, the embargo will be in effect at 0001, Wednesday May 23, 2012 and can be rescinded at any time.”

The company has indicated it is willing to take steps to avoid the disruption.

“We are willing to enter into binding arbitration or negotiation period extensions should an agreement not be reached at this stage,” said executive vice-president and chief operations officer Mike Franczak. “This would ensure the continued operations of freight and commuter trains on CP’s Canadian Network for the benefit of our customers, communities we serve and the economy at large. Any extension to the bargaining process requires consent of the union or action of the federal government.”

The two parties are continuing to meet and are employing the assistance of a federal government-appointed mediator and conciliator service.

In addition, Lisa Raitt, the federal minister of labour called a meeting with the opposing sides.

“Our government is concerned that a work stoppage would have a negative effect on Canadian businesses and families, and the economy,” said Minister Raitt. “That’s why I have invited the parties to attend a working summit in hope that we can avoid any disruption of services.”

She added, “today, I will remind the parties that the best solution is the one they reach themselves. I encourage the parties to continue negotiating and reach a prompt resolution to these disputes.”