CP Railway strike costs Windsor $1M a day

The Canadian Pacific Railway strike is affecting production at Chrysler's Windsor Assembly Plant in Windsor, Ont.
The small number of Canadian Pacific Railway workers in Windsor, Ont., are part of the nationwide strike. (CBC)

The Canadian Pacific Railway strike is affecting Windsor's economy to the tune of $1 million a day, said one railway official.

Ed Clough is the superintendent of operations for Essex Terminal Railway. The company moves between 35-40 fully loaded freight cars throughout the city on a daily basis.

"Not only are we not getting product from CP we're also not getting product from CSXT and CNR," Clough said.

That's because the three rail companies share lines owned by CPR.

Essex Terminal Railway moves rice, lumber, auto parts, chemicals, propane and grain.

"Right now it's a very big Canadian parking lot," Clough said. "Each and every one of them will be affected."

Production at Chrysler's Windsor Assembly Plant is also being affected.

"Chrysler Group uses Canadian Pacific Railway for the delivery of parts and finished vehicles," Chrysler Canada spokesperson Lou Ann Gosselin wrote in an email to CBC News. " We are actively working to mitigate any impact to our operations through alternative shipment methods.  We encourage a quick resolution to this issue."

Approximately 5,000 hourly employees represented by the CAW work at Windsor Assembly Plant.

Clough said customers are scrambling to find other methods of transportation.

"Customers will find alternative routes if possible, but that's not always possible," Clough said. "Trucking is the obvious one, but some of the product, like propane, use large tank cars. [Customers] will have to find another source."

CP Railway workers were picketing at two locations in Windsor on Wednesday. The pickets are part of a nationwide strike that ground freight operations to a halt.

"They’ve taken a hard stand on pensions," Teamsters Canada Rail Conference Local 528 chair Ray Vigneux said of management. "They want to reduce our pension in some cases by as much as 40 per cent. We had to take a hard stance too. That just doesn’t happen."

Vigneux's local represents engineers, conductors and yard men in Windsor.

The federal government has prepared back-to-work legislation if CPR and Teamsters can't reach a new collective agreement.

Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said the parties are still at the table and are getting closer to agreement. She said the government estimates a strike could cost the economy $540 million a week.

The workers went on strike early Wednesday morning after last-minute negotiations before the midnight deadline failed, the Teamsters union said.

"We think the workers will be legislated back to work," Clough said. "But how long will take? That's the question."