Calgary

Union issues strike notice to CP Rail as groups ask Ottawa to prevent work stoppage

The move is the latest escalation in a labour dispute at the Calgary-based railway that could result in a potential nation-wide work stoppage as early as Sunday.

Labour dispute at the Calgary-based railway could result in a potential work stoppage as early as Sunday

Canada's agriculture industry, among others, has expressed concern about a potential work stoppage at Calgary-based Canadian Pacific Railway. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. said Thursday it has received strike notice from the union representing its engineers, conductors and other train employees.

The move is the latest escalation in a labour dispute at the Calgary-based railway that could result in a potential nation-wide work stoppage as early as 1 a.m. EST on Sunday.

CP Rail indicated Wednesday night that it had issued a 72-hour notice to the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference of its plan to lock out almost 3,000 employees on Sunday, if the union and the company are unable to come to a negotiated settlement or agree to binding arbitration.

The two sides are at odds over 26 outstanding issues, including wages, benefits and pensions.

But Canadian business organizations are calling on Ottawa to prevent a potential work stoppage at Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd., which could further hamper companies recovering from COVID-19 restrictions and supply chain problems.

Roughly 45 industry groups said Thursday that any disruption would hinder Canada's freight capacity and hurt the broader economy as it grapples with inflation, product shortages, rising fuel costs and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"Any disruption would further cripple Canada's freight capacity and have a profound impact on not only rail shippers, but all shippers, including trucking and air, throughout the broader Canadian economy," the groups said in a statement.

"It would do irrevocable damage to Canadian supply chains that would extend beyond our borders and harm our reputation as a reliable partner in international trade."

The groups behind the statement included the Retail Council of Canada, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters and the Business Council of Canada.

Federal Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan said Wednesday night that Ottawa is "monitoring the situation closely." (CBC)

Federal Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan said Wednesday night that Ottawa is "monitoring the situation closely" and wants both parties to consider making compromises to reach a deal that is fair for workers and the employer.

But the industry groups want the government to go further.

"CP has stated that it is willing to immediately enter binding arbitration to resolve this matter without a work stoppage," the groups said.

"The government must do everything in its power to get the union to agree."

One of the groups that was part of the statement, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, added that it's important for the government to ensure both parties remain at the negotiation table and service remain uninterrupted because it is already a challenging time for businesses.

The organization, which represents at least 110,000 small businesses, estimates only 35 per cent of businesses have returned to normal sales and about 89 per cent of small businesses are impacted by supply chain challenges, with retail, manufacturing, and construction businesses being the hardest hit sectors.

Three in ten business owners have seen their business' costs increase by more than 20 per cent due to supply chain issues, while 39 per cent have waited waiting more than a month for shipments, CFIB said.

"The work stoppage will cause additional burdens on many of these businesses and put their future and the livelihood of their employees at a greater risk," said Jasmin Guenette, vice-president of national affairs.

Canada's agriculture industry has also expressed concern about a potential work stoppage at CP.

Farm groups have warned any delay on the rail lines would affect everything from shipments of fertilizer and other inputs during the crucial spring seeding season, as well as deliveries of emergency livestock feed to drought-affected parts of the Prairies.

"Disruptions such as this can reverberate and have consequences throughout the entire food supply chain," said Keith Currie, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, in a news release.

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