28 November 2009 18:18 [Source: ICIS news]
TORONTO (ICIS news)--Canadian National - CN - railway locomotive engineers began strike action early on Saturday, raising the spectre of serious disruptions to chemical and fertilizer rail shipments in North America, officials said.
CN, one of the largest in North America, said it was moving forward with contingency plans to maintain service. Qualified CN management employees would work to operate freight trains safely, it said.
CN received notice from union Teamsters Canada Rail Conference that its 1,700 locomotive engineers would begin strike action on Saturday, it said.
Local Canadian media reported that workers at several CN sites walked off their jobs immediately after the late night Friday talks over workplace conditions collapsed.
The union did not immediatley comment on the extent of its strike action. It said, however, that commuter services in the Montreal area would not be affected.
A strike by CN workers in 2007 caused massive disruptions in chemical railcar traffic and forced Canadian-based producers to reduce production. That strike was eventually ended by federal back-to-work legislation.
Canadian chemical producers rely heavily on rail services to obtain feedstocks and get product to customers.
Year to date through 21 November, Canadian chemical railcar shipments were 543,952, according to the latest data from the American Association of Railroads. This compares with 1,212,207 shipments over the same period in the much larger US economy.
However, shipments in both countries are down sharply from the same period in 2008 because of the economic crisis.
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