Ahead of a new round of contract talks, Canadian National (NYSE: CNI) warned of a “significant disruption” to service from the ongoing strike by about 3,200 employees.
“We are disappointed that the TCRC (Teamsters Canada Rail Conference) has initiated strike action,” Janet Drysdale, CN’s vice president of financial planning, said during the Scotiabank Transportation and Industrials Conference on Nov 19.
Drysdale did not detail the specific impacts of the strike by conductors, transpersons and yard workers, which began at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 19. But any significant disruption to Canada’s largest rail network could hurt the national supply chain and economy since CN transports more than C$250 billion in goods each year.
The federal government, which has been mediating talks between CN and the Teamsters, urged the two sides to reach an agreement.
“The government of Canada understands the importance of the rail industry and its workers to the Canadian economy,” Labor Minister Patty Hajdu said in a statement. “While we are concerned about the impact of a work stoppage on Canadians, we remain hopeful they will reach an agreement.”
The CN and Teamsters officials were slated to return to contract talks later in the day Nov. 19. At issue are safety, work conditions and benefits.
“Unfortunately, we were unable to reach a deal with CN. The company remains unwilling to address our members’ health and safety issues. As a result, CTY members at CN will be on strike,” the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference wrote in an update to members.
Earlier, Chief Operating Officer Rob Reilly said, “If a settlement cannot be reached this weekend, we will once again encourage the union leadership to accept binding arbitration as an alternative to disrupt the Canadian economy.”
The CN workers have been without a contract since July.
The strike followed an announcement by CN that it planned to cut jobs in response to worsening economic conditions.
Joanna Marsh of FreightWaves contributed to this story.