Thunder Bay

Striking Teamsters picket CP Rail offices in Thunder Bay

Striking Canadian Pacific Railway employees braved the bitter cold in Thunder Bay Sunday to picket the CP offices on Syndicate Avenue in what is expected to be a short-lived labour action.

Federal government expected to table back-to-work legislation Monday

Teamsters members in Thunder Bay bundled up for the wind chills in the -30s for their first day of picketing against Canadian Pacific Railway.

Striking Canadian Pacific Railway employees braved the bitter cold in Thunder Bay Sunday to picket the CP offices on Syndicate Avenue in what is expected to be a short-lived labour action.

The federal government is expected to introduce legislation on Monday to end the strike by more than 3,000 unionized CP workers.

Locomotive engineers want a new scheduling system that cuts down on fatigue, says Dale Roberts who represents striking Teamsters in Thunder Bay. (Jody Porter/CBC)
About 100 members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference work in Thunder Bay where Local 243 spokesman Dale Roberts said the main issue in the dispute is scheduling for locomotive engineers.

"The phone rings and you have to go to work in two hours and you don't know whether you'll be gone for eight hours, 11 hours or 20 hours," Roberts said. "There is no real schedule, the company has been unwilling or unable to give us any defined schedule."

He said that leads to fatigue and safety concerns, particularly now that trains are running longer and heavier.

"It's nothing to have a two-mile long train that weighs 16,000 tons and now you have someone on that train who is fatigued and having a very hard time making decisions, falling asleep," he said.

Canadian Pacific said it proposed changes to work schedules "to improve the quality of life for engineers and conductors" and it is disappointed that talks failed.

'Reckless disregard for Canadians'

Labour and Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch, who had been involved in the bargaining effort, made her feelings clear in a statement issued Saturday, after the talks broke down.

"I am incredibly disappointed that the TCRC failed to reach an agreement with CP Rail," she said.

"Due to this reckless disregard for Canadians and the Canadian economy, our government will review all available options to end any work-stoppage expediently, up to and including the introduction of legislation in Parliament."

But Roberts said he'll be disappointed if union members are ordered back to work, as they were during a strike in 2011. He said the prospect of government intervention gives the company "no reason to bargain seriously."

Roberts said Resolute Forest Products and Suncor Energy are the Thunder Bay businesses that would be most affected by the strike, along with local scrap dealers and the grain elevators.

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