US Scabs Being Imported As Canadian Pacific Railway IBT Engineers Go on Strike as Negotiations Break Down

US Scabs Being Imported As Canadian Pacific Railway IBT Engineers Go on Strike as Negotiations Break Down
By IAN AUSTENFEB. 15, 2015

OTTAWA — About 3,000 locomotive engineers and conductors at the Canadian Pacific Railway walked off the job early Sunday morning in a dispute over wages and benefits.

Although the company said it would try to maintain some service by using managers, the strike is likely to disrupt key industries throughout North America, including automakers, oil companies, papermakers, lumber suppliers and agriculture and mining companies.

In a news release issued immediately before the strike, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference suggested that disagreements on rest time and other scheduling issues had led to the breakdown in negotiations.

“We require sufficient fatigue countermeasures to protect our members safety and health,” the statement said.

Canadian Pacific said it had offered improvements in both pay and benefits. It disputed the union’s suggestion that its members need more rest.

The union’s leadership, the company said in a statement, “claims that lack of time off is at the heart of its reluctance to negotiate, yet 72 percent of all engineers and conductors do not take the time off they are entitled to.”

Unifor, the union for about 1,800 maintenance and safety workers, said early Sunday morning that it had reached an agreement with the company minutes before its members were set to strike.

A prolonged shutdown would be felt in the United States as well as Canada. Producers in Canada’s oil sands have been increasingly using Canadian Pacific, as well as its rival, Canadian National Railway, for shipments to American refineries. The tightly integrated auto industry is also a major customer.

All three Toyota vehicle assembly plants in Ontario use only Canadian Pacific for rail shipments. Greig Mordue, the general manager of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, said that the company had acquired additional areas to stockpile completed cars, would add extra truck shipments and would take some production to other railways by truck.

“It’s a challenge,” he said. “We have storage spaces essentially for about five days outside of our normal routine.”

But those alternatives are not economically viable or even practical for many of Canadian Pacific’s customers.

David Lindsay, the president of the Forest Products Association of Canada, said about three transport trucks would be needed to replace a single rail car. A typical paper mill, he added, would need about 40 trucks a day to move its production.

“Getting that many trucks and drivers to replace rail cars is a physical challenge,” Mr. Lindsay said, particularly in the remote regions were most mills are located.

Although lumber producers can wait out the strike simply by storing the wood outdoors, that stopgap is impossible for pulp and paper makers. In view of the general lack of large warehouses at paper mills, Mr. Lindsay said, most of them would have to stop production and lay off employees if the strike continued.

Retailers in the United States may also encounter some product shortages. Many containers ultimately bound for the United States are unloaded at ports in British Columbia, then delivered by rail to Chicago and other destinations in the United States by Canadian Pacific.

Labor relations at Canadian Pacific have been shaky in recent years. In 2012, the activist investor William A. Ackman won control of Canadian Pacific through a proxy fight. He then installed E. Hunter Harrison as chief executive, with a mandate to cut costs and improve performance, steps he had previously taken as the top executive at Canadian National. Many of Mr. Harrison’s measures have not gone over well with unions.

The Canadian government, which has clashed with Canadian Pacific over delays in grain shipments apparently caused by the growth in its oil shipping business, introduced legislation that ended a 2012 strike after nine days. It is expected that it may introduce a bill to end this strike as soon as Parliament convenes on Monday.

On Friday, Kellie Leitch, the federal labor minister, joined in the labor talks, which were held in Montreal.

Teamsters on strike at Canadian Pacific
Published: February 15th 2015
Source: Teamsters Canada

We are on strike to overcome the culture of fear initiated by CP management
Montreal February 15, 2015 – Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) has announced the negotiations process at Canadian Pacific (CP) has failed and there is no agreement reached with the employer's management team. Effective 0001, February 15 the TCRC membership is officially on legal strike across Canada. Despite the efforts of Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services (FMCS) to assist the parties to achieve a negotiated agreement, negotiations ended tonight.

“Late tonight it was revealed how severe the concessionary demands of the employer really are”, indicated TCRC President Douglas Finnson. "Less than two hours before the expiration of the cooling off period, the final package of concessions amounted to much the same thing as the hourly agreement this same management team tried to impose on our Brothers and Sisters at Canadian National (CN) in 2007. Those tactics resulted in a National Rail Strike at CN then, and unfortunately have done so again today at CP.”

"Picket lines are now being set up across Canada and the rail shut down is happening," said President Finnson.

A particularly sensitive situation is the announcement by CP to use other workers to run trains. "During our final discussions tonight we explained to CP Chief Operating Officer, Keith Creel, that we had received reports of American citizens being transported into Winnipeg to perform the work of our Canadian members. Mr. Creel committed to making certain that did not happen and would correct anything like that which has already happened," explained Finnson.

Despite the complete breakdown of bargaining tonight, the TCRC negotiating committee advised FMCS and the CP chief negotiator they remain available to negotiate an acceptable agreement.

"We are on strike to overcome the culture of fear initiated by CP management, to achieve a healthy and safe work environment for the working people, and to introduce effective and progressive fatigue countermeasures within our workplace without diminishing the collective agreement." concluded the union leader.

The Teamsters represents 115,000 members in Canada in all trades. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with which Teamsters Canada is affiliated, has 1.4 million members in North America.

For more information:

Stéphane Lacroix, Director of Communications
Cell: 514-609-5101