CP Rail, Union, Blame Each Other for Work Stoppage as Stakes Rise

By Noé Chartier
Noé Chartier
Noé Chartier
Noé Chartier is an Epoch Times reporter based in Montreal. Twitter: @NChartierET Gettr: @nchartieret
March 21, 2022 Updated: March 21, 2022

A work stoppage at CP Rail that began on March 20 comes at a turbulent time when strained supply chains, high fuel prices, and the war in Ukraine are putting increasing pressure on the Canadian and world economies.

CP and the union Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) failed to reach a deal under federally-mediated negotiations before the March 20 deadline, after which both sides said they would initiate a work stoppage.

“Shortly before the lockout was announced, the Teamsters Union expressed its desire to continue bargaining,” said TCRC in a March 19 statement. “Unfortunately, the employer chose to put the Canadian supply chain and tens of thousands of jobs at risk.”

Dave Fulton, TCRC spokesperson at the bargaining table said in the statement the union is “very disappointed with this turn of events.”

“Canadian Pacific management must be taken to task for this situation,” he said. “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.”

TCRC represents about 3,000 locomotive engineers, conductors, train and yard workers across Canada. Its core demands are around wages, benefits, and pensions.

CP says it did not initiate a lockout and that the work stoppage is caused by TCRC going on strike.

“We are deeply disappointed that, in the final hours before a legal strike or lockout was to potentially occur, the TCRC Negotiating Committee failed to respond to the company’s latest offer that was presented to them by the federal mediators,” said Keith Creel, CP President and Chief Executive Officer.

“Instead, the TCRC opted to withdraw their services before the deadline for a strike or lockout could legally take place.”

In an email response to The Epoch Times, TCRC spokesman Stéphane Lacroix pointed to his organization’s website when asked to comment on Canadian Pacific’s assertion that it didn’t initiate the work stoppage, but declined to comment further.

Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan has been involved in the dispute and says he’s staying in Calgary, the site of the negotiations, until the situation is resolved.

“Second day of a work stoppage but CP and Teamsters Rail remain at the table. We have faith in their ability to reach an agreement. Canadians expect them to do that ASAP,” O’Regan said in a March 21 tweet.

The work stoppage could be severely damaging for farmers who rely on rail for the shipping of fertilizer before the planting season.

An industry group is calling on the federal government to intervene to stop the disruption.

“Canada cannot afford another disruption to our supply chain,” said Karen Proud, President and CEO of Fertilizer Canada, in a statement.

“75 per cent of all fertilizer in Canada is moved by rail. During the lead-up to spring seeding, every day, frankly every hour, counts. During this critical time our members rely on uninterrupted rail service to deliver their products to their farmer customers in Canada and into international markets.”

Whether it’s moving food, or fertilizer to grow food, a long-term work stoppage would have very negative consequences on the already sky-rocketing cost of living for Canadians. The issue is not only local, with Ukraine being a major grain exporter whose production and exportation will be impacted by Russia’s recent invasion of the country.

Dalhousie professor Sylvain Charlebois, who runs the university’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab, says the stakes of the labour dispute are very high.

“There’s no two ways to say this… the entire planet cannot afford a lengthy labour dispute at CP rail,” he told CTV on March 21.

Noé Chartier is an Epoch Times reporter based in Montreal. Twitter: @NChartierET Gettr: @nchartieret