Shutdown begins at CP Rail as union, company continues negotiating

The company and the union are pointing fingers of blame at each other for a shutdown of Canadian Pacific Railway operations that began Sunday while the two sides remained at the bargaining table.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, which represents some 3,000 engineers, conductors, yard workers, and other train employees, issued a release just before midnight saying a lockout was being initiated by management at the Calgary-based railway.

But hours later the company put out a release stating that while the company was still engaged in contract talks facilitated by federal mediators, the TCRC “with draw its services and issued a news release misrepresenting the status of the talks.” It added that CP was working with its customers to wind down its operations across Canada.

The union then issued a subsequent release which said that in addition to the lockout, Teamsters Canada Rail Conference members were also on strike at CP throughout the country with picketing underway at various Canadian Pacific locations.

The office of federal Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan said in a statement that while the work stoppage had begun, both parties were still at the bargaining table with mediators and it expected “the parties to keep working until they reach an agreement.” The more than two dozen outstanding issues in the dispute include wages, benefits and pensions.

Fertilizer Canada, a group representing manufacturers, wholesale and retail distributors, called on the federal government to take immediate action.

“Canada cannot afford another disruption to our supply chain,” Karen Proud, the group’s president and CEO, said in a statement released Sunday morning. “Seventy-five per cent of all fertilizer in Canada is moved by rail. During the lead-up to spring seeding, every day, frankly every hour, counts.”

Last week, about 45 industry groups warned that any disruption of rail service would hinder Canada’s freight capacity and hurt the broader economy as it grapples with inflation, product shortages, rising fuel costs and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

CP Rail had issued a 72-hour notice to the TCRC of its plan to implement a lockout on Sunday if the union and the company failed to reach a negotiated settlement or agree to binding arbitration.

The union said in its release that it wanted to continue bargaining but “unfortunately, the employer chose to put the Canadian supply chain and tens of thousands of jobs at risk.”

TCRC spokesperson Dave Fulton called the turn of events “disappointing” saying the railway must be “taken to task” for this decision.

He said the union was willing to explore an arbitrator’s decision but was unable to reach an agreement with the employer.

“They set the deadline for a lockout to happen tonight when we were willing to pursue negotiations,” he said. “Even more so, they then moved the goalpost when it came time to discuss the terms of final and binding arbitration.”

CP, for its part, blamed the union for the shutdown.

“This is clearly a failure of the TCRC Negotiating Committee’s responsibility to negotiate in good faith,” it said in its statement.

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