A strike against Canadian Pacific Railway by 4,800 workers represented by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference entered its third day Friday and businesses could feel the bite if it lasts for more than a few days, according to reports from around the country.
Port Metro Vancouver issued a statement
saying it was "deeply concerned" with the dispute, adding "continued work stoppage of CP operations will have severe consequences not only for port operations, but also the Canadian economy, and the long-term reputation of the gateway."
"This day-old strike is already having significant economic and long-term reputational effects," said Port Metro Vancouver Chief Executive Officer Robin Silvester.
The Canadian Broadcasting Company
quoted Bob Ballantyne, president of the Canadian Industrial Transportation Association, saying a stoppage of more than a few days "starts to really hit." CP accounts for about 40 percent of Canada's rail activity, and Ballantyne expected the strike "will have a very big impact if it lasts for any length of time."
In other reports:
- The Ottawa Citizen quoted Denis Horgan, general manager of Westshore Terminals in Vancouver, saying his company is continuing to load coal onto ships, and load and unload product from Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Canadian National trains.
- Bloomberg said incoming containers were beginning to pile up at Montreal where CP handles about half of the containers.
- Reuters reports from Winnipeg said both wheat exports and canola oil industry could be harmed.
- The Website Mineweb quoted Canada's energy and resources minister saying a prolonged strike could result in excessive costs for ships loading products such as postash.
Canada's Labor Minister Lisa Raitt said the federal government may introduce back-to-work legislation if the two sides cannot reach a deal. Canada's Parliament is on break until next week, and Raitt said on Canadian television "there is a lot of opportunity for the parties between now and Monday to conclude their own deal."
But Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, wrote to Raitt to express “outrage,” saying she was interfering in the negotiations.
“Only 10 hours after the workers went on strike, you and your government decided to put back-to-work legislation on the order paper in the House of Commons,” he said. “Why would any federal employer bargain in good faith with its workers?”
He urged Raitt to stay out of the dispute and to allow the Teamsters union and CP Rail to come to a negotiated settlement. “Publicly talking about back-to-work legislation only serves to give the employer an advantage and has far reaching negative implications for future labor relations between the parties at CP Rail, and in other federally regulated sectors as it sends a signal to every federally regulated employer that they need not bargain,” Georgetti said.
About 4,800 unionized Canadian Pacific workers, including engineers, conductors and yardmen, went on strike Wednesday.
Teamsters Canada Rail Conference president Rex Beatty said the railway "is trying to drastically cut pensions, but we’re going to do our best not to let them do it.”
He said the railway’s demands were unacceptable when managers are seeing their benefits increase while those of his members are being "decimated".
"CP management doesn’t seem to be bothered by this flagrant inequality,” Beatty added. “But they shouldn’t underestimate our members. This is an important issue and we’re going to see this fight through to the end.” - Chris Dupin