‘It doesn’t look good’: CP rail closure likely, union says

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Teamsters Canada said it doubts negotiations with Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. will lead to a deal before a lockout takes effect this weekend, announcing a major rail closure that will further clog rail lines. supply and disrupt spring planting on farms across the country.

The union, railways and federal mediators continued negotiations in Calgary on Friday afternoon, with another meeting scheduled for Saturday. Teamsters spokesman Stephane Lacroix called the talks “really, really slow”, and said they did not appear to be on track to reach a resolution by the 12:01 a.m. CP deadline on March 20.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, which represents about 3,000 CP conductors, engineers, trainmen and yardmen, was preparing to set up picket lines in major cities across the country, Lacroix said.

“At the moment it doesn’t look good,” he said in an interview around 3 p.m. on March 18. He added that there could still be a surprise development that could turn the tide. “But right now I wouldn’t say we’re very optimistic.”

In response to Lacroix’s comments, CP said it “will continue to negotiate in good faith.”

Federal Minister of Labor Seamus O’Reagan

appealed to both parties on Twitter

urging them to reach an agreement as soon as possible.

“Canadians are counting on them. Businesses rely on them. Time is running out,” said O’Reagan, whose government has come under pressure from industry groups and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe to resolve any work stoppages with back-to-work legislation.

The Teamsters and CP have been negotiating a new collective agreement since September, with 26 outstanding issues on the table. Earlier this month, union members voted to authorize a strike, if necessary, as early as March 16. The union did not initially opt for a strike, but CP has issued a notice that it will lock out staff if the union fails to reach an agreement. or agree to binding arbitration by March 20.

CP managing director Keith Creel said the looming threat of a Teamsters strike had caused too much uncertainty in the economy, so he set a lockdown deadline to avoid extending the episode for weeks or years. month.

“Delaying resolution would only make matters worse,” Creel said in a March 16 statement. “We are taking this step with a view to ending this uncertainty.”

Shortly after CP’s lockout notice, the Teamsters announced their own intention to strike the same day.

Either way, the risk of a rail disruption comes at a bad time for Canadian farmers, who depend on trains to deliver their supplies of fertilizers and pesticides before spring planting.

“It really is one of the worst times of the year to strike,” said Todd Lewis, a farmer from Gray, Sask., and vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia, a major grain supplier, has put pressure on Canada’s grain farmers to pick up some of the slack and help avert a global food crisis. But a delay in fertilizer deliveries to farms this spring could reduce crop yields later in the year, when global supplies could be tighter than usual due to war, according to Nutrien Ltd., based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the world’s largest manufacturer of agricultural products. nutrients. About 75% of fertilizer in Canada travels by rail, and fertilizer supply chains were “already strained” this year, said Christine Gillespie, vice president of distribution and logistics at Nutrien.

“We ask all parties involved to do everything in their power to resolve this dispute,” Gillespie said in a video call posted to Twitter.

Clyde Graham, executive vice-president of the trade association Fertilizer Canada, estimated that about 80% of this spring’s fertilizer supply is already “in place.” But even a delay on that last 20% would have serious consequences for crop yields on the Prairies, he said.

“The last thing we need now is a strike,” he said.

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