February 17, 2015 7:50 am
Updated: February 17, 2015 9:30 am

Saskatchewan agriculture community happy CP Rail strike has ended


Watch above: The Canadian Pacific Rail strike ended after just one day with both sides agreeing to arbitration. Joel Senick looks at the impact a strike could have in Saskatchewan.

SASKATOON – Members of Saskatoon’s agriculture community are breathing a sigh of relief after the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Teamsters Canada union ended a brief nation-wide strike Monday by agreeing to mediated arbitration.

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“Very good news,” said Janice Tranberg, the executive director of the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission, in reaction to the news.

“Good news to hear they’re back.”

READ MORE: CP Rail strike ends, as Ottawa drops back-to-work legislation

The strike started after the two sides failed to reach an agreement before a Saturday midnight deadline. Roughly 3,300 workers across the country, more than 500 of which are based in Saskatchewan, took action after a disagreement with CP over “work life balance.”

“We have on certain runs the ability to work 10 hours or 12 hours,” said strike captain Doug Fast, of Division 793 Teamsters Canada.

“In many cases the railway… is not getting us in and off duty in our allotted time,” he added.

The decision to end the strike came after the federal government moved to impose back-to-work legislation against the union. A prolonged strike could damage the Canadian economy, members argued, which is a sentiment shared by members of Saskatchewan’s agriculture community.

“Rail transportation is the most efficient transportation method that’s out there, not the only one, but probably the most efficient, so we really are very highly dependent on that,” said Tranberg.

She added that canola contributes $19 billion to the national economy, the majority of which is shipped through rail.

Agriculture expert Kevin Hursh explained that any work stoppage could add to a present backlog of grain in the country. Hursh said grain movement is behind 10 per cent at this point of the year.

“Any back up in the system causes prices to farmers to be lower, it causes customers to wait long,” said Hursh, who is also the executive director of Inland Terminal Association of Canada.

“The longer you’re out of service, the more things gum up and the longer it takes for you to recover from that and the more costly it becomes,” he added.

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