Labour minister calls for review before dual rail strike can take place

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A possible rail strike at both of Canada’s main railways could be delayed as the federal labour minister has called for a review of the potential impact of a work stoppage on the health and safety of Canadians.

On Thursday, Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan Jr. asked the Canada Industrial Relations Board to look into maintenance of activities agreements between the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference and the two railways: CN Rail and CPKC.

“Serious concerns have been raised about potential impacts to the health and safety of Canadians. It’s our duty to look into this,” said O’Regan Jr, on X (formerly Twitter.)

After voting in favour of a strike mandate last month, over nine thousand employees of CN and CPKC were in a position where they could have gone on strike as soon as May 22.

However, under the Canada Labour Code, the minister can ask the CIRB to intervene to decide which activities need to continue during a strike or lockout, and the parties are banned from beginning a strike or lockout until the board has made a decision.

How long it will take the CIRB to make its decision is not known.

The dispute revolves around three collective bargaining contracts that expired on Dec. 31, 2023, affecting the following railway workers:

– Nearly 6,000 conductors, locomotive engineers, and yard workers at CN,
– Nearly 3,200 conductors, locomotive engineers, and yard workers at CPKC, and
– Around 80 or 90 rail traffic controllers at CPKC.

CPKC says it’s scheduled to meet with TCRC leadership again next week, with federal mediators on hand.

At least four consecutive rounds of labour talks between CPKC (previously CP Rail) and the Teamsters union have resulted in work stoppages, in 2012, 2015, 2018 and 2022. TCRC members at also CN spent eight days on strike in 2019.

Related:

Teamsters vote to authorize rail strikes at CN and CPKC

Possible dual railway strike looms as contract negotiations remain stalled

Over nine thousand CN and CPKC workers to vote on strike mandate

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