Canadian Pacific shippers relieved trains moving again

Commodity producers are relieved, as Canadian Pacific Railway resumes operations after the passage of back-to-work legislation.

Rail operations resumed at 7 a.m. ET, but backlog from 9-day strike could take weeks to clear

Canadian Pacific Railway workers have been asked to report to work Friday, following royal assent for back-to-work legislation Thursday night. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Commodity producers are relieved their products, such as grain and minerals, will be moving again now that operations by Canadian Pacific Railway have resumed after Parliament ordered striking workers back to the job.

The Mining Association of Canada said Friday its member companies will have a backlog as they rely on rail to get supplies to work sites and products to market.

"So a stoppage for a number of days like we've seen, certainly has an impact," said Paul Hebert, the mining association's vice-president of government relations.

"There's no question there has been a cost but we haven't quantified it," Hebert said from Ottawa. "We're very pleased we're going to see a full resumption of service."

CP Rail operations resumed across the railway's entire Canadian freight network at about 7 a.m. Eastern Time, the company said in an email Friday.

The union representing the 4,800 strikers, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, asked its members to end their walkout after federal back-to-work legislation became law Thursday night.

The workers, including locomotive engineers, conductors, yard workers and others, walked out May 23, forcing Canada's second-biggest railway to shut down freight operations.

The Agricultural Producers of Saskatchewan said CP rail moves everything from wheat and barley to canola and flax.

"We depend on them for our living," association president Norm Hall said from Regina.

"We do export so much of our crop and it has to get to export position and that so rarely happens by truck. It happens by rail."

Clearing backlog could take weeks

CP Rail has said freight service would be back to normal within 48 hours.

However, federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt has said it will take weeks to clear the backlog.

As an example, Raitt said there were half a dozen ships waiting in Vancouver to be loaded with Canadian grain bound for foreign markets and that eight more ships were on their way to the port.

The back-to-work law sends the labour dispute to a government-appointed arbitrator, who has 90 days to impose a deal.

CP Rail had said its plan was to have cars rolling 12 hours after the bill passed, which the Senate did Thursday night.

The union said that while it disagreed with the law it was advising members to obey it and report for work Friday morning.