CP employees to walk the line Tuesday night

(File photo by Dave Bedard)

Barring any last-minute deals, conductors, engineers and signal maintainers at Canadian Pacific Railway plan to be on strike as of 9 p.m. CT Tuesday.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), which represents about 3,000 CP engineers, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), which represents about 360 CP signal maintenance staff, both announced Saturday they have served CP with the required 72 hours’ minimum strike notice.

The notice followed Friday’s announcement that the membership of both unions voted decisively against ratifying what CP had described as its “final offers” to the two bargaining units. Mediated talks between CP and union brass have continued since then. Both unions’ memberships had voted early last month to authorize strike action if need be.

CP said in a statement Saturday it “will continue to meet with the TCRC and the IBEW in the hopes of reaching agreements that are in the best interests of the entire CP family, its customers, shareholders and the broader North American economy.”

Both unions said in a separate statement they “are willing to remain at the bargaining table until the May 29 strike deadline and beyond.”

“The meetings were not as successful as we had hoped, and there remain significant outstanding issues,” TCRC officials said in a notice to members Saturday, noting their bargaining committee had met with CP CEO Keith Creel, among other officials, “throughout the day until late (Friday) evening.”

Conductors and engineers should make “the necessary preparations to begin legal strike action” Tuesday night, the TCRC said.

“CP has continually changed directions during negotiations with little evidence that a settlement was ever possible. We have given CP every reasonable opportunity to negotiate and avoid a strike, but sadly that has led us nowhere,” Steve Martin, senior general chairman for IBEW System Council No. 11, said in the same release.

“CP is offering more of the same contract language that workers just voted to reject a few hours ago. The company clearly isn’t serious about reaching a negotiated settlement and delivering on their promise to do right by their employees,” TCRC president Doug Finnson said Saturday in a release.

A statement from federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu wasn’t immediately available Sunday. The minister’s previous statements on the matter haven’t mentioned the option of back-to-work legislation, which was used to end the previous two strikes by CP’s conductors and engineers.

Grower groups have previously called on the government to take action to prevent such a work stoppage. Alberta’s wheat and barley commissions last month wrote Hajdu asking her to impose binding arbitration and begin the process of introducing back-to-work legislation.

“(W)ith the inability to deliver grain on global contracts that were set for delivery as far back as October, some farmers are facing severe cash flow issues as we move into the 2018 growing season,” they wrote.

Railway employees, they added, “should be prohibited from taking strike action, now or into the future.”

“Wheat growers have suffered through the abysmal rail transportation problems this past growing season and now may have to face a strike by CP Rail. This is making a bad problem even worse,” Western Canadian Wheat Growers president Levi Wood said last month, also calling for a federal back-to-work rule. — AGCanada.com Network

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