Close to 3,000 employees of Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. could be off the job early Sunday morning.
Calgary-based CP Rail said in a release Wednesday that it has issued 72-hour notice to the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference of its plan to lock out employees at 00:01 eastern time on Sunday if the union and the company are unable to come to a negotiated settlement or agree to binding arbitration.
CP Rail said it tabled an offer Tuesday to address 26 outstanding issues, including the union's key issues of wages, benefits, and pensions through final and binding arbitration.
The company said the union rejected the offer and continues to table additional demands.
“For the sake of our employees, our customers, the supply chain we serve and the Canadian economy that is trying to recover from multiple disruptions, we simply cannot prolong for weeks or months the uncertainty associated with a potential labour disruption,” said CP Rail President and CEO Keith Creel in a release.
“The world has never needed Canada’s resources and an efficient transportation system to deliver them more than it does today. Delaying resolution would only make things worse. We take this action with a view to bringing this uncertainty to an end.”
Teamsters Canada said in a release that the company's move was expected and noted its members voted 96.7 per cent to authorize strike action.
Teamsters' spokesman Dave Fulton said the union is committed to working with federal mediators and reaching a negotiated settlement. He said the union is willing to remain at the bargaining table until the March 20 lockout deadline and beyond.
"At the bargaining table, CP continues to dismiss our members’ demands and are unwilling to negotiate the issues they have created," he said. "Our members are fully engaged and will be ready in the event CP carries out the notice."
The union represents about 3,000 locomotive engineers, conductors, train, and yard workers across Canada.
Many of CP Rail's customers have raised concerns about the possibility of a labour disruption at a time when supply chains are already strained due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Canadian manufacturers, grain shippers, and farmers have all warned of potential wide-ranging impacts.
Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan issued a statement Wednesday night about the lockout notice. He said the federal government strongly encourages both parties to consider making compromises necessary to reach a deal that is fair for workers and the employer.
"Our government respects and has faith in the collective bargaining process, because we know that the best deals are the ones reached by the parties at the bargaining table," O'Regan said.
"The Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra, and I understand the impacts of a potential work stoppage and are monitoring the situation closely. We are encouraged to see that both parties are still negotiating.
"We have been in touch with the parties directly, urging them to work together to resolve their issues and reach a deal as quickly as possible, and will continue to do so."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 16, 2022.
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