Rail strike ends with binding arbitration

Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) and its union put a halt to the 24-hour strike after agreeing to binding arbitration.

The rails were only empty for a day at Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) as the company and its union put a halt to the 24-hour strike after agreeing to binding arbitration, mere hours before back-to-work legislation could be put into place.

“This decision ensures both sides will get back to the table, and get us back to moving Canada’s economy forward,” said E. Hunter Harrison, CP’s Chief Executive Officer. “While we would have preferred a negotiated settlement, this is the right thing to do at this time.”

A federally appointed arbitrator will oversee the talks.

The strike saw over 3,300 Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) members walk off the rails on Sunday when their union and CP failed to reach an agreement in negotiations.

TCRC represents locomotive engineers and conductors all across the country and last Wednesday had given CP a strike deadline of midnight Sunday, along with a list of demands pointing to long hours and unpredictable schedules as the union’s foremost issues.

CP made a statement Sunday, calling the union’s decision to move forward with a strike “disappointing.”

“[Teamster’s] leadership claims that lack of time off is at the heart of its reluctance to negotiate, yet 72 per cent of all engineers and conductors do not take the time off they are entitled to,” said CP.

On Saturday, it appeared the two parties had reached a tentative three-year deal, but TCRC ultimately backed out upon last-minute review. The union felt the offer echoed tactics that resulted in government legislation that brought an end to the National Rail Strike at Canadian National in 2007.

The government was prepared to repeat history and, heading into Monday, had plans  to enact legislation that would force a stoppage of the strike, according to a government source statement to The Canadian Press. TCRC President Douglas Finnson divulged in a statement, “Late tonight it was revealed how severe the concessionary demands of the employer really are … We are on strike to overcome the culture of fear initiated by CP management, to achieve a healthy and safe work environment for the working people, and to introduce effective and progressive fatigue countermeasures within our workplace without diminishing the collective agreement.”

The country’s number two railway did manage to reach a last-minute four-year agreement deal with Unifor, the union representing safety and maintenance workers.