Stockpiles filling as rail strike drags on

Canadian Pacific Railway employees are still not back at work, more than a week since the strike started.

  • May. 30, 2012 7:00 p.m.

Canadian Pacific Railway employees are still not back at work, more than a week since the strike started.

Labour Minister Lisa Raitt has tabled back-to-work legislation to force an end to the strike by 4,800 Canadian Pacific Railway employees.

“Simply put, the strike can’t go on,” Raitt told the House of Commons on Monday.

“The work stoppage is preventing our ability to keep products moving in and out of Canada and that undermines Canada’s reputation as a reliable place to do business,” she said.

Earlier this week Raitt said she expects the railroad to be back in business by the end of the week, and had signalled that she was prepared to step in if a deal could not be reached between the union and the company.

She said the strike could cost the Canadian economy $540 million per week, as products such as wheat, coal and potash fail to reach their destinations.

“Although our economy is still recovering, it is still fragile and we have to ask whether or not for the nation’s good we can allow this work stoppage at CP Rail to continue,” Raitt said in Parliament Monday.

CP’s largest customer, Teck Resources Ltd., has no other way to get coal from the five local mines to port in Vancouver.

The company said it is currently stockpiling raw material, but if the strike goes on much longer they will be in trouble. Teck typically sends 650 railcars a day from the mines.

“They are our primary supplier to get our product to market, so obviously we need the rail lines to be running,” said Marcia Smith, Teck’s senior vice-president for sustainability and external affairs.

Smith wouldn’t predict what the long-term effect of the strike might be for Teck, but said she was happy that the Labour Minister had indicated she would table back-to-work legislation.

“We are just currently dealing with the situation onĀ  a day-by-day basis,” Smith said. “Over the long term, obviously it’s a very fluid situation. We’re hopeful that the parties can get a resolution quickly.”

The 4,800 workers began a legal strike on Wednesday last week, walking off the job and shutting down CP’s freight service across the country.

CP said it was “disappointed” that a negotiated settlement couldn’t be reached to end the “unnecessary” strike, in a statement.