Trains stop across Canada as unionized workers go on strike

OTTAWA (AP) — The union and CP Rail have blamed each other for a Sunday work stoppage that saw trains stop across Canada.

More than 3,000 CP Rail conductors, engineers, train and yard workers represented by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference are on furlough after a company-set midnight deadline to agree on a contract n failed to reach an agreement.

Both sides say they were still talking to federal mediators.

The union said in a statement that the company had locked out the workers, but later released another statement saying the workers were also on strike.

The original statement posted on the CFTC’s website Saturday night said the union wanted to continue negotiations, but the company “chose to put the Canadian supply chain and tens of thousands of jobs at risk.”

“As Canadians grapple with an unending pandemic, exploding commodity prices and war in Ukraine, the rail carrier adds an unnecessary layer of insecurity, especially for those dependent on the rail network,” says the press release.

CP Rail, Canada’s second-largest rail operator, said it was the company that wanted to keep talking after the midnight deadline and the union that pulled its employees out of work.

CP President Keith Creel said in a press release that the union “did not respond” to a new offer presented by mediators by the midnight deadline.

“Instead, the CFTC chose to withdraw its services before the deadline for a strike or lockout could legally occur,” he said. “The CFTC is well aware of the damage this reckless action will cause to the Canadian supply chain.″

Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan has urged both sides to continue negotiations.

“There are always challenges in the negotiation, but you overcome them to get the deal you need,” O’Regan said on Twitter. “CP and Teamsters Rail continue their work today. Canadians are counting on a quick resolution.″

The CP Rail dispute will impact supply chains that are already hammered by the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, were hit by protests from trucking convoys blocking border crossings in February, and are now facing the effects, in particular on global fuel supplies, of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

All the disruptions have pushed inflation to its highest level in three decades, with essentials such as food and fuel facing some of the steepest price rises.

CP and the union have been negotiating since September, with wages and pensions a sticking point. For the union, a clause indicating where employees take their federally mandated break periods is also an issue.

CP Rail says this is the fifth work stoppage since 1993 and the eighth time in nine trips to the bargaining table that contract talks have required federal conciliation.

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