Canadian rail workers vote to launch strike: Correction

  • Market: Agriculture, Chemicals, Coal, Coking coal, Crude oil, Fertilizers, Oil products, Petrochemicals
  • 02/05/24

Corrects movement of grain loadings from a year earlier in final paragraph.

Workers at the two major Canadian railroads could go on strike as soon as 22 May now that members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) have authorized a strike, potentially causing widespread disruption to shipments of commodities such as crude, coal and grain.

A strike could disrupt rail traffic not only in Canada but also in the US and Mexico because trains would not be able to leave, nor could shipments enter into Canada.

This labor action could be far more impactful than recent strikes because it would affect Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) at the same time. Union members at Canadian railroads have gone on strike individually in the past, which has left one of the two carriers to continue operating and handle some of their competitor's freight.

But TCRC members completed a vote yesterday about whether to initiate a strike action at each carrier. The union represents about 9,300 workers employed at the two railroads.

Roughly 98pc of union members that participated voted in favor of a strike beginning as early as 22 May, the union said.

The union said talks are at an impasse.

"After six months of negotiations with both companies, we are no closer to reaching a settlement than when we first began, TCRC president Paul Boucher said.

Boucher warned that "a simultaneous work stoppage at both CN and CPKC would disrupt supply chains on a scale Canada has likely never experienced." He added that the union does not want to provoke a rail crisis and wants to avoid a work stoppage.

The union has argued that the railroads' proposals would harm safety practices. It has also sought an improved work-life balance.

But CN and CPKC said the union continues to reject their proposals.

CPKC "is committed to negotiating in good faith and responding to our employees' desire for higher pay and improved work-life balance, while respecting the best interests of all our railroaders, their families, our customers, and the North American economy."

CN said it wants a contract that addresses the work life balance and productivity, benefiting the company and employees. But even when CN "proposed a solution that would not touch duty-rest rules, the union has rejected it," the railroad said.

Canadian commodity volume has fallen this year with only rail shipments of chemicals, petroleum and petroleum products, and non-metallic minerals rising, Association of American Railroads (AAR) data show. Volume data includes cars loaded in the US by Canadian carriers.

Coal traffic dropped by 11pc during the 17 weeks ended on 27 April compared with a year earlier, AAR data show. Loadings of motor vehicles and parts have fallen by 5.2pc. CN and CPKC grain loadings fell by 4.3pc from a year earlier, while shipment of farm products and food fell by 9.3pc.


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