Labour minister intervenes in bid to avert CP Rail strike
Canadian Labour Minister Kellie Leitch stepped in and held last-minute talks to help avoid a looming strike at Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd.
Leitch flew Friday to Montreal, where talks are being held, to press for a quick resolution between the Calgary-based railway and a pair of unions whose members could strike as soon as Sunday.
“She is personally intervening to encourage all parties to work together to quickly reach agreements in the best interest of the Canadian economy and Canadians, and to avoid a costly and damaging work-stoppage,” her communications director, Andrew McGrath, said.
Canadian Pacific is facing strikes by both the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference and Unifor Local 101R, which according to their websites represent about 5,000 of the railway’s workers. Both can walk out as early as 12:01 a.m. Sunday.
Leitch’s government was criticized by one of the unions poised to strike. In a statement Friday, Unifor said one of the issues in contract talks is safety concerns spurred by what it calls a lack of federal inspectors and officials. “More and more dangerous products” are being shipped by rail in Canada, the union said.
“Our federal government is failing to protect the public, so in this round of negotiations, we’re going to deal with the issue at the bargaining table,” Unifor national president Jerry Dias said in the statement.
Unifor spokeswoman Shannon Devine confirmed the union was meeting with Leitch, saying the minister had scheduled a “series of meetings” with the railway and both unions.
Teamster’s spokesman Stephane Lacroix said the two sides are “still negotiating,” and a tentative agreement is possible.
Canadian Pacific spokesman Martin Cej declined to comment on the labour minister’s involvement, though he did say talks are ongoing.
Leitch also met with officials from Canadian National Railway Co., which is in negotiations to avoid a strike but isn’t facing the imminent deadline that Canadian Pacific is, according to a person familiar with the situation, who declined to be identified because the discussions are private.
Canadian Pacific’s contracts with the two unions expired in December 2014. The federal government used back-to-work legislation to end a strike at Canadian Pacific in 2012. The railway has said it intends to use managers to keep trains running in the event of a strike. An executive said this week he expects a strike could cost the company about one cent each day in per-share earnings.