Nearly 3,000 Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. workers could be locked this weekend. The company and union have yet to reach a deal.
On Wednesday, CP Rail shared in a statement that it has filed a 72-hour lockout notice.
Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), the union representing the workers, said Thursday they rejected an offer presented Tuesday. CP said it addressed 26 outstanding issues such as pensions and wages.
Teamsters negotiators sent a counter offer with no response yet from CP. Since then, the union has supplied a strike notice to CP Rail.
Dave Fulton, TCRC’s general chairman for conductors, trainmen and yardmen in Western Canada, said the rejection of CP’s offer is just part of the negotiation process.
He says the union wants to see improvements to wages, benefits, pensions and work rules.
“In 2012, our pension was arbitrated to be capped per year of service. We’re looking for an increase to the cap,” Fulton stated.
“We also have a two-tiered system where members who were employed prior to 2013 have a higher cap than members who were hired after 2013. So we’re looking for a more even playing field.”
According to CP Rail, TCRC’s latest position, if accepted, would be “even more destabilizing” to the pension plan for all unionized employees.
Fulton said that is not the information they have.
“Canadian Pacific is currently on a pension holiday,” he continued. “They no longer pay contributions to the pension plan, but all employees pay to the pension plan.”
Concerns are starting to escalate from coast to coast with the latest news suggesting there’s a higher chance of a lockout starting this weekend.
A letter written on behalf of 45 organizations and agencies from across Canada, including the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce, is addressed to the federal government saying Ottawa must act to prevent a work stoppage.
Groups, including Food Producers of Canada, Canadian Canola Growers Association and Petroleum Services Association of Canada, say in the letter that any disruption would do irrevocable damage to supply chains that would extend beyond Canada’s borders.
“A work stoppage of any length will have a deep and adverse impact for all Canadians who rely on the essential rail supply chain and for the broader Canadian economy,” reads the letter.
Food security is top of mind with rising inflation and costs climbing at grocery stores. A statement from the Western Canadian Wheat Growers on Thursday states an interruption to rail service will be “devastating.”
Ray Orb, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM), said they have been keeping in touch with CP management over the last week or so in order to stay updated on the situation.
He admitted the potential disruption could cause a lot of trouble with CP Rail trains staying put in the province.
“It’s creating a lot of angst, especially among the livestock producers because they are worried about not getting feed in some cases,” Orb said.
“Grain producers and people who still have crop to move are concerned as well because it will slow everything down.”
If no settlement or agreement to binding arbitration is achieved within the next couple days, workers nation-wide could be locked out as early as 12:01 a.m. on Sunday.