Commissions urge Ottawa to intervene in potential rail strike

The commissions that represent wheat and barley growers in Alberta are calling on the federal government to intervene if a strike by CN Rail employees takes place on Tuesday.

Over the weekend, the union that represents more than 3,000 CN workers says it will strike one minute past midnight if negotiations aren’t resolved prior to.

“We need to see immediate action from the federal government to prevent any delays in rail service, not only to ensure farmers can be paid, but also to avoid jeopardizing our global export markets,” says Dave Bishop, Alberta Barley chair.

According to a news release from the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions, CN delivers up to 5,650 hopper cars per week to Canadian elevators, representing over half a million tonnes of grain. If those cars are not supplied, farmers can’t deliver and are not paid. A small disruption could cause massive setbacks and further economic losses to the farmer, the commissions say.

The teamsters union says if a strike were to take place, it would have an effect on CN’s operations but would not affect public transportation.

The commissions urge the current Minister of Labour, Hon. Patty Hajdu and current Minister of Transport, Hon. Marc Garneau to take whatever steps are necessary to avert a strike.

“There are a lot of farmers who already have a significant amount of their income trapped under snow. Now adding insult to injury, we’re looking at possible CN rail strike action too,” says Gary Stanford, Alberta Wheat Commission chair. “That means that for the grain we did manage to harvest, we won’t be paid at least until service resumes.”

As a new federal cabinet will be sworn in on Wednesday, the commissions ask that the first order of business should be to avert a crisis in Canada’s transportation system.

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