(Recasts with gov’t readying back-to-work legislation)
By Leah Schnurr and Jeffrey Hodgson
OTTAWA/TORONTO, Feb 13 (Reuters) - The Canadian government said on Friday it had joined contract talks between Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd and unionized staff ahead of a possible weekend strike, but it also began laying the groundwork to introduce back-to-work legislation.
Canadian Labour Minister Kellie Leitch intervened in the negotiations to encourage an agreement and stave off a potential weekend strike, her spokesman said.
But the Conservative government also put back-to-work legislation on Parliament’s notice paper for Monday, meaning it could pass it into law soon after any strike.
In recent years, the government has intervened or threatened to intervene in several major labor disputes in the transportation sector.
Unions representing workers at CP Rail have given notice they may go on strike just after midnight on Saturday.
Leitch was in Montreal on Friday and “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,” said her spokesman, Andrew McGrath.
CP, Canada’s No. 2 railway, said earlier this week that its managers will be ready to take over if engineers and conductors walk off the job.
The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference gave notice on Tuesday that it will strike just after midnight on Saturday unless it reaches a contract deal. CP said the Teamsters represent more than 3,000 active locomotive engineers and conductors.
Unifor, which has also been in contract negotiations and represents about 1,800 maintenance and safety workers at the railway, gave notice late on Wednesday that it may go on strike at the same time. (Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Ken Wills)