Canadian labor union seeks rail strike mandates, causing concerns in chemical industry

Stefan Baumgarten

03-Apr-2024

TORONTO (ICIS)–The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) labor union is seeking to obtain strike mandates at rail carriers Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC).

TCRC, which represents about 9,000 CN and CPKC engineers and conductors, plans to hold votes to grant strike mandates to the union from 8 April to 1 May.

A source at a major sulphur supplier in Canada told ICIS on Wednesday that a looming rail strike was a “real and serious worry” for the industry.

“The Teamsters have consolidated several unions at both CPKC and CN,” the source said.

“On top of that, union contract dates are no longer staggered. So this has been set up for a showdown,” it added.

The two railroads account for the bulk of freight rail traffic in Canada.

In Canada’s chemical industry, producers rely on rail to ship more than 70% of their products, with some exclusively using rail.

In the run-up of strikes, producers have to make preparations. Longer strikes can force plant shutdowns and after a strike ends it can take weeks for normal operations to resume.

TCRC said that a strike mandate would allow it to call a strike in the event it cannot reach new collective agreements with the rail carriers. The agreements expired on 31 December 2023.

The union said that CPKC rejected the majority of its demands for improved pay and working conditions and that CN was refusing to discuss the demands of the union members.

Officials at CN and CPKC could not immediately be reached for additional comment.

In an update last month, CN said it was in negotiations with TCRC, with the support of federal conciliators.

Additional reporting by Julia Meehan

Thumbnail photo source: CN

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