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Potential strike looms at Canada’s two major railways


More than 9,000 employees at Canadian National Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific Kansas City have voted overwhelmingly in favour to go on strike as early as May 22 if no collective new deal is reached.

“The simultaneous work stoppage at both CN and CPKC would disrupt supply chains on a scale Canada has likely never experienced,” Paul Boucher, president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, said Wednesday in Ottawa. He added that the union will go back to the bargaining table and “do everything in our power to reach a fair deal for our members.” 

Such a work stoppage would impact supply chains not only across Canada but down through the railway networks stretching to the US Midwest and Gulf of Mexico.

“It would disrupt essential supply chains throughout North America, and significantly constrain trade between Canada and the U.S. and Mexico,” CPKC warned.

Canadian National said it “maintains a cautious outlook regarding possibility of finalizing a deal before a labor disruption that would affect the Canadian supply chain, the North American economy and our employees.”

CPKC said its latest offers provided significant benefits, wage increases and full compliance with regulatory requirements for rest. “They do not in any way compromise safety. To say or suggest otherwise is false.”

Canadian National indicated the union rejected an offer based on an hourly rate and scheduling that included wage boosts, scheduled consecutive days off, provisions for no layoffs and reduced hours away from home.

The parties have begun a mandatory 21-day period of mediation with federal mediators.

Transport Minister Pablo Rodriguez said the Canadian government was concerned and urged the parties to negotiate in good faith. “The best deals are made around the table,” he told reporters.

Labour issues at ports of Montreal and Vancouver

Meanwhile, a still wider supply chain crisis could be on the horizon as current union negotiations remain deadlocked with maritime employers at the ports of Montreal and Vancouver.

The 1,100 members of the union representing Montreal dockers rejected on April 17 an offer from the Maritime Employers Association for a new collective agreement replacing the one which expired on December 31, 2023. The union, however, has not yet scheduled a general meeting to vote on strike action.

(Photos from CN and CPKC)