TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd said on Wednesday its managers will be ready to take over if engineers and conductors in Canada walk off the job on Sunday, as talks to try to avert a strike at the country’s No. 2 railway continued.
Chief Operating Officer Keith Creel told an investor conference CP has been preparing for a strike for two years. He said that if one goes ahead it would reduce earnings per share by about one cent per day.
CP earned C$2.63 a share in the fourth quarter.
“We won’t be able to move 100 percent of the business, but certainly we’re going to protect the business as best we can,” he said.
The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) gave notice on Tuesday it will strike just after midnight on Saturday unless it reaches a contract deal. CP, which also has a substantial U.S. network, said the Teamsters represent more than 3,000 active locomotive engineers and conductors.
Last month the Unifor union, which represents 1,650 CP safety and maintenance staff, set the same strike deadline. It would need to give 72 hours’ notice of a strike.
Unifor and the Teamsters have also been negotiating with Canadian National Railway Co, the country’s biggest railroad, but neither union has announced a strike deadline there. Spokesman Mark Hallman said CN is confident it can reach contract deals without labor disruptions.
CP’s Creel said he thinks Canada’s federal government would step in if there were strikes at both railways, but it could take three to 10 days to legislate their end.
In recent years, the government has intervened or threatened to intervene in several major labor disputes in the transportation sector. A spokesman for the labor minister said it would be inappropriate to speculate on what the government might do this time.
TCRC President Doug Finnson said unpredictable schedules and fatigue problems are a key issue in bargaining. He said members are being forced to work beyond a 10-hour limit far too often. “The economic aspect is not holding up an agreement,” he said.
Scheduling is a longstanding point of labor tension at both railways.
Creel said the union is making “unreasonable demands,” without providing details.
The talks are being watched closely. Lynn Jacobson, who farms near Lethbridge, Alberta, in an area served only by CP, said a strike of more than a week “has the potential to really hurt us”.
Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Peter Galloway and Jeffrey Hodgson