OTTAWA, Ontario and CALGARY, Alberta: CP Rail workers who belong to the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) walked off the job at one minute after midnight.
The target of the strike by 4,800 conductors, trainmen, yardmen, locomotive engineers and rail traffic controllers is CP’s freight traffic and not the company’s commuter routes.
“CP has successfully executed the safe and structured shutdown of its freight train operations in Canada. In addition to customer and supply chain impacts, the suspension of CP’s freight service will also impact many of the connecting railways with whom we do business,” said CP spokesperson Ed Greenberg.
The union was in negotiation with the railway throughout Tuesday night, and both parties say they intend to return to the bargaining table today. The talks are being conducted with the assistance of federal government-appointed conciliation and mediation services.
“We have made every reasonable effort to get a settlement. Every union member knows how important the outstanding issues are. We will not walk away from the negotiation table,” said TCRC vice-president Doug Finnson.
“We would like to thank Minister Raitt once again, as well as the conciliators who tried their best to avert the strike. We are as concerned for CP’s corporate customers as we were for the commuters.”
Even though the strike is only a few hours old, CP customers are already calling for government intervention to get the workers back on the job.
The Mining Association of Canada (MAC), for example, issued the following statement about the strike.
“On behalf of the mining industry in Canada, MAC urges the federal government to resolve the labour disruption so that operations can return to business as normal scenarios as soon as possible.”
MAC says the strike will affect both ends of the mining supply chain, not to mention the Canadian economy as a whole.
“The CP rail strike will cause a shortfall of essential fuel and supply shipments to mines across Canada. It will also prevent mines from delivering their products to their end-point destinations, thus seriously and adversely affecting their ability to operate at any functional capacity. In this time of post-recession economic recovery, a threat to the stability of the natural resource sector is a threat to the stability of a stalwart of the Canadian economy.”
Although the federal government has taken action in the recent past to end strikes at Air Canada, it has not yet committed to taking similar action to end this strike, even if the minister of labour, Lisa Raitt, did hint at the possibility.
“I am disappointed that the parties have not been able to reach agreements despite federal assistance and that strike action has begun. The best solution is always the one that the parties reach themselves.
“I urge the parties to resume negotiations and work diligently to reach negotiated agreements or agree to submit to a binding process to settle their disputes.’
“The government is concerned about the national economic significance this will have and we are prepared to act in the interest of the national economy,” she said.
With files from the Canadian Press