CP Rail job action another blow to economy

Each side blames the other for work stoppage

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Roughly 60 CP Rail employees walked picket lines in waves at two Winnipeg locations Sunday, marking the first day of a work stoppage that halted trains and the distribution of goods across the country.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/03/2022 (255 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Roughly 60 CP Rail employees walked picket lines in waves at two Winnipeg locations Sunday, marking the first day of a work stoppage that halted trains and the distribution of goods across the country.

The company and the union have blamed each other for the work stoppage, with Teamsters Canada Rail Conference describing it as a lockout initiated by the employer. CP Rail responded by saying the union “completely misrepresented the truth,” and that the company had to shut down operations because Teamsters didn’t respond to its latest offer by midnight Sunday.

Around 3,000 workers are off the job across Canada after the company-set deadline of midnight failed to reach a deal.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS CP Rail workers walk the picket line on Keewatin Street Sunday.

Several employees held placards and walked through deep puddles at the entrance of CP Rail’s property on Keewatin Street Sunday afternoon as passing cars and trucks honked their support. Only about one in 100 passersby had shouted negative comments, estimated Lane Edel, president of Winnipeg’s division 76 for Teamsters Canada Rail Conference. Edel, a locomotive engineer for 15 years, said he’d much rather be at work than spending all day on the picket line, shoes soaked in muddy water.

“It is unfortunate they’ve taken the ability for us to provide for our families and move product for our economy away from us,” Edel said. He said employees want the company to honour collective agreements with the union, including agreements for overall hours worked and time spent on the road away from home.

“More hours on duty equate to more fatigue, and (we are) dealing with pretty serious stuff. Heavy equipment and dangerous commodities, so we’ve got to have all our wits about us,” Edel said.

He said other local unions and individual Winnipeggers showed their support by donating food for workers on the picket line Sunday, saying the support has already been “overwhelming.” The workers aren’t receiving strike pay.

“It’s nice to know that people are behind us and understand the real reason and the root cause for this, like I say, nobody wants to be doing this,” Edel said.

“I would love nothing more than just to keep my job and earn a wage, good home, hang my hat up and be proud, but it can’t be that way.”

CP Rail could not say how many trains were stalled at its Winnipeg railyards Sunday. Salem Woodrow, a Winnipeg-based media relations manager for the company, said a “structured shutdown” of rail service is happening.

“We’re winding down those operations and working with customers to ensure that trains make it to their destination and are stationed in a safe location.”

Meanwhile, another meeting with mediators was set for Sunday afternoon.

“We are at an impasse, but we remain willing to bargain in good faith,” Woodrow said.

The rail stoppage will have wide-reaching implications in Manitoba and across Canada amid already rising inflation and shipping costs, farmers and manufacturers say.

Ron Koslowsky, Manitoba divisional vice president of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, called on the federal government to put an end to the labour dispute. The association is concerned for the national economy. Prices are already going up because of inflation, shipping costs have doubled or even quadrupled in some cases, and the average Manitoban will feel the effects of this stoppage, if it continues, in less than a month, he predicted.

“This is going to make it worse. Prices will continue to go up,” Koslowsky said.

He said manufacturing goods account for half of all of Canada’s rail-car loads and the consequences will be widespread.

“It doesn’t matter the cause, we can’t allow our lifeblood of our main public train corridors to be compromised and to be held for ransom.”

Farmers are also concerned about supply chain disruptions as a result of the rail stoppage, specifically for grain, feed, and fertilizer for spring seeding. Local farmers have a short window of time to get grain to grain elevators so trains can carry it to ports at Thunder Bay, Ont. If rail cars can’t pick up from the elevators, there will be a bottleneck stopping the supply.

“Every day that there’s a disruption, there’s significant financial implications for the industry,” said Bill Campbell, a Minto-based grain and livestock farmer and president of Keystone Agricultural Producers. “It’ll be huge if it’s not corrected very shortly.”

With files from the Canadian Press

katie.may@winnipegfreepress.com

Katie May

Katie May
Reporter

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.

History

Updated on Sunday, March 20, 2022 9:56 PM CDT: "Strike' changed to 'job action' in headline

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