Canadian Pacific Railways engineers and conductors go on strike

Sun Feb 15, 2015 11:53am EST
 
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TORONTO Feb 15 (Reuters) - Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. prepared to operate a reduced freight schedule run by its managers on Sunday, after talks on a new contract broke down and more than 3,000 train engineers and conductors walked off the job.

Canada's second-largest railway and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference could not agree on scheduling and rest time before a midnight deadline passed. The railway reached a deal with a second union, Unifor, which represents safety and maintenance workers.

The strike will affect automakers, crude-by-rail and grain shipments and the Port of Metro Vancouver. Commuters in Montreal will also feel the effects, since CP operates some commuter trains in Canada's second largest city. CP workers in the U.S., where the railway has a substantial network, are not on strike.

Jarrett Zielinski, president and CEO of Torq Energy Logistics Ltd, which operates crude-by-rail loading facilities in Western Canada, said he expected the federal government to step in and take action.

"We are as exposed as anyone else and thus providing our customers access to both Canadian class one railroads mitigates some of the risk associated with that exposure," Zielinski said before the strike was called.

"However, with U.S. crude oil inventories at record levels and pipeline takeaway constraints mounting, we foresee increased demand for (crude by rail) services."

Torq's main terminal in Unity, Saskatchewan, is connected to both CP and Canadian National Railway, Canada's largest rail company. CN reached a deal with the Teamsters on Saturday and is in talks with Unifor but does not face a strike deadline.

Canada's Labour Minister Kellie Leitch, who intervened in the talks on Friday to try to stave off the strike, said she was "incredibly disappointed" that the union and the Calgary-based company had failed to reach an agreement.

"Our government will review all available options to end any work-stoppage expediently, up to and including the introduction of legislation in Parliament," Leitch said in a statement.

The Canadian government began laying the groundwork to introduce back-to-work legislation last week, putting it on Parliament's notice paper for Monday, which means it could pass into law soon after the strike.

In recent years, the government has intervened or threatened to intervene in several major labor disputes involving transportation. (Reporting by Amran Abocar; Additional reporting by Nia Williams in Calgary)