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Canadian Pacific threatens lockout of Teamsters members

‘We simply cannot prolong for weeks or months the uncertainty associated with a potential labor disruption’

A Canadian Pacific train at a rail crossing. (Photo: Shutterstock/Eric Buermeyer)

Updated to include comment from Teamsters Canada Rail Conference

Canadian Pacific has notified the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) that it will lock out its members right after Sunday midnight if the sides fail to either negotiate a settlement or agree to binding arbitration for a new labor agreement.

CP (NYSE: CP) decided to take this action to prevent prolonged uncertainty. The railway will begin a work stoppage contingency plan and work with customers to achieve a smooth, efficient and safe wind-down of Canadian operations, CP said.

The railway served the 72-hour notice of the lockout plan to the Teamsters on Wednesday. The lockout would affect more than 3,000 locomotive engineers, conductors, trainpersons and yardpersons working at CP.

“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 labor disruption,” CP President and CEO Keith Creel said. “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.”

In response to CP’s notice, TCRC spokesperson Dave Fulton said: “It was well known that CP was going to force a work stoppage and lockout our members. They have done just that. At the bargaining table, CP continues to dismiss our members’ demands and are unwilling to negotiate the issues they have created. We remain committed to reaching an acceptable agreement that addresses our members’ issues. Our members are fully engaged and will be ready in the event CP carries out the notice.”

The Teamsters also said it would remain at the bargaining table until Sunday and beyond.

CP said it has been negotiating with the Teamsters since September and over the past week.

But the two sides have been unable to resolve issues over wages, benefits, pensions and work rules. 

“The TCRC leadership rejected CP’s offer and, contrary to public statements by TCRC spokesman Dave Fulton that wages, benefits and pensions were the key issues, the union continues to table additional work rule demands,” CP said. “In rejecting our offer, the TCRC’s proposal included an even more onerous pension demand. The TCRC’s latest position would, if accepted, be even more destabilizing to the pension plan for all of CP’s unionized employees, not just the 10 percent who are TCRC members.”

Teamsters members voted earlier this month to conduct a work stoppage should negotiations between the union and CP fail to produce a new labor agreement. A strike could have occurred as early as midnight Wednesday if TCRC had issued a 72-hour notice beforehand.

CP, TCRC and federal mediators met throughout the weekend in the hope of achieving a negotiated settlement and averting a work stoppage, CP told FreightWaves, adding that those negotiations are continuing in Calgary, Alberta.

The last four-year labor agreement expired Dec. 31.

Stakeholders on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border have been pressing CP and the Teamsters to avert a work stoppage, saying it could disrupt a supply chain still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.