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Results of two contract votes ending on May 25 will signal if Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. faces a work stoppage that would halt its freight shipments and some passenger rail traffic across Canada.
CP train operators in Teamsters Canada Rail Conference and signal workers represented by International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers have until Friday at noon to vote on three-year agreements.
If the deals are rejected, all sides would be in a strike or lockout position with 72 hours’ notice.
The unions are urging their members to vote down the offers, which include 2-per-cent wage increases and an offer of $1,000 to employees who drop their outstanding grievances over non-disciplinary matters, according to a copy of the offer seen by The Globe and Mail.
CP says the 2-per-cent raise is consistent with other agreements it has reached with unionized employees and exceeds the 1.7-per-cent average pay increase for Canadian unions in 2017. “These offers improve member wages, benefits, and in return provide certainty and stability for the next three years,” said Jeremy Berry, a CP spokesman.
The Teamsters has a long list of objections to the offer, saying the company is demanding concessions while offering only small increases to benefits. “This proposal has no provisions to address fatigue management and lifestyle issues, which are a very high priority for the membership,” the union said in a letter to members, a copy of which was obtained by The Globe.
The Teamsters says the $1,000 payment is an attempt to “wipe the slate clean” that is undercutting the amount employees are due if their grievances were settled fairly.
Hours before a strike deadline last month, federal Minister of Employment Patty Hajdu ordered the company’s offer be presented directly to union members in a vote administered by the Canadian Industrial Relations Board. Ms. Hajdu’s move ended mediated talks between the company and the unions.
The country’s rail customers are closely watching the deadline. Commuter-rail service in Vancouver, Greater Toronto and Montreal would also be affected by a strike.
Industry groups representing rail customers say a rail stoppage at CP will hurt the economy and businesses at a time many are still recovering from a winter marked by a rail-car shortage and port backlogs.
Nutrien Ltd., formed by the merger of Agrium Inc. and Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Ltd., laid off more than 1,000 workers at its Western Canadian operations in April, citing the rail backlog. Nutrien, which relied on CP for about 80 per cent of its export volumes, said train service is improving but a strike would be a setback.
“If there is a strike, obviously, that’s going to hurt us,” Raef Sully, Nutrien’s vice-president of potash, said on a recent conference call with analysts.
The Teamsters, representing CP’s 3,000 locomotive engineers and conductors, have gone on strike twice since 2012, a year new company leadership began a series of layoffs and restructuring that employees say harmed labour relations. In the fall of 2017, members voted against a one-year contract offer from CP, setting the stage for this week’s vote.
This article first appeared on www.theglobeandmail.com
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