CP RAIL: The work stoppage comes at a bad time for Canada’s already strained supply chain
Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. is winding down operations across the country after the company and union failed to reach an agreement by the 12:01 a.m. deadline on March 20.
The latest development since negotiations began in September has ended in finger pointing, with both sides claiming that the other initiated the work stoppage.
At 11:42 p.m. on March 19, Stéphane Lacroix, a spokesperson for Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), issued a statement that said a lockout would begin after midnight.
“We are very disappointed with this turn of events,” said Dave Fulton, Teamsters spokesperson at the bargaining table. “They set the deadline for a lockout to happen tonight, when we were willing to pursue negotiations. Even more so, they then moved the goalpost when it came time to discuss the terms of final and binding arbitration.”
In the statement, the union clarified the differences between a lockout, which is initiated by the employer, and a strike, which is initiated by unionized employees.
At 2:20 a.m. on Sunday, CP released a statement saying that prior to the midnight deadline, Teamsters issued a news release that “completely misrepresented the truth.”
“Contrary to the TCRC Negotiating Committee’s claim, the work stoppage was initiated by the TCRC. In reality, it was CP, with the Director General, Federal and Conciliation Services, that remained waiting at the table with the desire to continue bargaining,” CP said in the statement.
Minister of Labour Seamus O’Regan Jr said in a tweet just after midnight that the railway and Teamsters were still at the table with federal mediators.
CP is one of the largest railway operators in Canada and the Teamsters union represents 3,000 locomotive engineers, conductors, train and yard workers across the country. A work stoppage comes at bad time for Canadian farmers, who depend on trains to deliver their supplies of fertilizer and pesticide before spring planting.
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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a top supplier of grains, has put pressure on Canada’s grain growers to pick up some of the slack and help avoid a global food crisis.
But a delay in shipments of fertilizer to farms this spring could reduce crop yields later in the year when global supplies may be tighter than usual due to the war, according to Saskatoon-based Nutrien Ltd., the world’s biggest maker of crop nutrients. About 75 per cent of fertilizer in Canada travels by rail, and fertilizer supply chains were “already stretched” this year, said Christine Gillespie, Nutrien’s vice-president of distribution and logistics.