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Potential CP Rail strike could further complicate Canadian supply chain issues

Customers of Canadian Pacific Railway are warning of the "devastating" impacts a potential rail strike could cause as a labour dispute enters its next stage. 

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) reported the results of a strike vote by Canadian Pacific employees earlier this month. 

According to the union, more than 96 per cent of members voted in favour of a work stoppage at the Calgary-based railway. 

As of Wednesday, that strike could be triggered with 72-hour notice at any time from TCRC. 

A stoppage would be a punch to the gut for many farmers, exporters and manufacturers — many of whom are already hurting. 

"The potential for a CP Rail strike can have dramatic ramifications for the manufacturing sector across Canada, mainly because it stacks on top of an already existing supply chain crisis," David MacLean with trade association Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters said. "And about 15 per cent of Canada's exports go by rail to various ports, so it's an integral part of our exporting business."

CP Rail's system runs across southern Canada and dips as far south as Kansas City, moving large quantities of grain, potash and coal. 

"A work stoppage of any duration at CP will impact virtually all commodities within the Canadian supply chain, thereby crippling the performance of Canada’s trade-dependent economy," a rail press release said. 

Take, for example, cattle feed. 

Drought in 2021 greatly reduced the amount of feed moving across the country, which means many Alberta farmers have had to use corn transported from the United States to feed their livestock. 

The Alberta Cattle Feeders' Association says fewer shipments would be "devastating."

"We currently really don't have a lot of buffer," Janice Tranberg, ACFA president and CEO, told CTV News. "I've talked to most of my members, and they have probably 10 days to two weeks maximum of grain in the bin. There is definitely some panic happening." 

The union says wages, benefits and pensions are the main drivers behind a potential job stoppage.

A CP representative told CTV News the pension issue is paramount to the company. 


Early Wednesday evening, CTV News received a statement from Federal Minister of Labour Seamus O'Regan Jr.:

“Canadian Pacific Railway and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference have been negotiating the renewal of their collective agreement and have been unable to reach an agreement so far. Today, the employer gave notice of their intention to lock out employees as of March 20.

"Our government respects and has faith in the collective bargaining process, because we know that the best deals are the ones reached by the parties at the bargaining table.

"The Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra, and I understand the impacts of a potential work stoppage and are monitoring the situation closely. We are encouraged to see that both parties are still negotiating. We have been in touch with the parties directly, urging them to work together to resolve their issues and reach a deal as quickly as possible, and will continue to do so.

"The government strongly encourages both parties to consider making the compromises necessary to reach a deal that is fair for workers and the employer. Canadians have worked together throughout the pandemic to find solutions to our collective challenges. They expect the same from such actors in our national economy.

"The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service has been working closely with the parties since December to help them reach an agreement and remains with them at the table to assist them in their negotiations.”

With files from The Canadian Press Top Stories

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