RPT-UPDATE 3-Canada retailers, ports fear impact as CN Rail lockout nears

Mon Feb 23, 2015 6:59pm EST
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By Allison Martell

TORONTO Feb 23 (Reuters) - A looming lockout at Canada's biggest railway threatens to delay imports from Asia and may compound a U.S. West Coast port logjam unless last-ditch contract talks succeed on Monday.

Canadian National Railway Co and Unifor, the union representing its 4,800 mechanical, clerical and trucking workers, resumed talks on Monday, hours before CN's 11 p.m. EST Monday (0400 GMT Tuesday) deadline to lock the workers out if no deal is reached.

CN Rail operates freight trains on tracks across Canada and the United States, but Unifor represents only Canadian workers. CN declined to comment on the talks on Monday.

The two main unresolved issues are pay and benefits, said Unifor Rail director Brian Stevens.

A lockout could spur disruptions of shipments of grain and other commodities and goods across Canada and impede operations at the country's biggest port, Vancouver. It would have threatened commuter train service in the Montreal area, but the two sides struck a deal to keep those trains running.

Ontario-based automakers such as Ford Motor Co., Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and General Motors and crude by rail shippers such as Keyera Corp. are monitoring the situation.

On the Pacific Coast, a lockout would hit the Port of Prince Rupert as well as Port Metro Vancouver.   Continued...