• ITVI.USA
    15,341.400
    78.550
    0.5%
  • OTRI.USA
    24.780
    0.360
    1.5%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,289.500
    66.220
    0.4%
  • TLT.USA
    2.690
    0.010
    0.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.550
    -0.030
    -1.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.030
    -0.080
    -2.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.450
    0.150
    11.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    2.910
    -0.030
    -1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.700
    -0.040
    -2.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.020
    -0.010
    -0.3%
  • WAIT.USA
    120.000
    0.000
    0%
  • ITVI.USA
    15,341.400
    78.550
    0.5%
  • OTRI.USA
    24.780
    0.360
    1.5%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,289.500
    66.220
    0.4%
  • TLT.USA
    2.690
    0.010
    0.4%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.550
    -0.030
    -1.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.030
    -0.080
    -2.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.450
    0.150
    11.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    2.910
    -0.030
    -1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.700
    -0.040
    -2.3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.020
    -0.010
    -0.3%
  • WAIT.USA
    120.000
    0.000
    0%
CanadaIntermodalNewsRailTrucking

Feds double down on talks for quick end to CN strike

Transport Minister Marc Garneau insists that a deal between Candian National and Teamsters offers the best way to get trains moving again as walkout by 3,200 workers hits Canada’s supply chain and threatens the economy.

The Canadian government renewed pressure on Canadian National (NYSE: CNI) and its striking rail workers to reach an agreement, saying a deal offered the fastest way to end an increasingly costly disruption to the country’s supply chain – and economy.

“It is something that is having a considerable impact on Canadians,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau told reporters Nov. 22. “CN is a major supplier of products across the entire country. So we want to resolve this as quickly as possible.” 

Garneau made the comments in Quebec, where the reduced flow of trains has left the province with dangerously low supplies of propane, a vital source of heating for many.  

Despite calls to bring Parliament into session early to force an end to the strike, Garneau said federally mediated talks between CN and the Teamster Rail Conference represented the “fastest way to resolve this.”

Nearly four days into the strike by conductors, trainpersons and yard workers, the ripple through Canada’s supply chain has intensified across the country as pressure mounted on the federal government to end the strike through mediation or legislation.

“Brutal” freight conditions in Toronto, trucking executive says

A Teamsters picket line outside a CN facility. Photo: Teamsters Canada

Beyond Quebec, the reduced movement of CN freight hurt oil-by-rail shipments in Alberta — itself a temporary measure. For trucking, the strike threw a curveball at a freight market contending with excess capacity and softer volumes of freight.

“Toronto is brutal,” Corey Darbyson, director of Transport Dsquare, a small Quebec-based carrier, wrote in a text message to FreightWaves on Nov. 21.

At CN’s Toronto-area terminal in Brampton, Ontario, trucks contended with picket lines to access curtailed intermodal operations. 

CN has remained tight-lipped about its operations during the strike. But Garneau told reporters that CN management indicated that its network was operating at about 10% capacity, with managers filling in for the striking conductors.

At the Port of Halifax, linked to CN’s network through on-dock access, car shipper AutoPort abruptly issued layoff notices to employees, according to the union Unifor.

Experts: Strike could shave C$3.1 billion from Canada’s economy

As the fallout intensifies, the pressure will mount on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reconvene Parliament early to legislate the CN workers back on the job. If the strike lasts until the next parliamentary session on Dec. 5, TD economists Brian DePratto and Derek Burleton projected the Canadian economy could lose C$3.1 billion.

For now, CN and officials from the Teamster Rail Conference, the union representing the conductors, trainpersons and yard workers, remain in federally mediated contract talks. Working conditions and benefits appear to be sticking points, with the Teamsters demanding remedies for what they consider unsafe working conditions.

CN has been quiet since the strike began, but CEO JJ Ruest issued a statement Nov. 21 proposing that the two sides enter into binding arbitration.

Ruest suggested that CN had made proposals to alleviate safety concerns.

“Safety is a core value at CN. Although the union has claimed that the strike was about safety, those statements do not reflect our discussions,” Ruest said. “For the safety concerns raised, we have proposed viable solutions because we want all employees to go home safely at the end of their shift.”

The Teamsters said, however, that binding arbitration was a nonstarter. Spokesperson Christopher Monette said the union was sympathetic to fears over the effects of the strike on Canada’s supply chain and economy.

“We understand the economic issues,” Monette said. “Ultimately we don’t think anyone should die trying to transport propane.”

FreightWaves staff writer Joanna Marsh contributed to this story.

Tags

Nate Tabak, Border and North America Correspondent

Nate Tabak is a Toronto-based journalist who covers cross-border trucking, logistics and trade for FreightWaves. Before moving to Canada, he spent seven years reporting stories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a reporter, producer and editor based in Kosovo. He previously worked at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the San Jose Mercury News. He graduated from UC Berkeley, where he studied the history of American policing. Contact Nate at ntabak@freightwaves.com.

16 Comments

  1. CN Rail CEO appears to have taken a step closer in the situation through a “Labour Negotiation Update” on the CN website through which he expresses HIS version of the situation . Unsurprisingly his position reflects his bias and in doing so sides with his “committees” .

    Quote in two parts :

    1st part :

    “For the last several months, CN has been working with the TCRC-CTY to negotiate a new collective agreement. Despite our efforts, the union leadership has rejected our offers and called a strike that is impacting our employees, our customers, and the Canadian economy. We have proposed to present our arguments to a neutral arbitrator to end this dispute, and we hope the union will be willing to do the same. Through binding arbitration, a neutral arbitrator would hear our positions and make a decision.

    Earlier this year, CN concluded 11 agreements with unions, representing approximately 7,000 union members. In 10 of those ratified agreements, the Company provided annual compensation adjustments better than inflation. Those agreements improved benefits, including short-term disability, basic life insurance, maternity leave, vision care, and dental; and also included employee share purchase plans. The final agreement covers 1,000 independent owner/operators working for CNTL and includes compensation adjustments in line with the other agreements. Moreover, while the current average salary of a Canadian conductor is $114,000 plus benefits, including a defined benefits pension plan, the union is seeking wage and benefit improvements beyond those negotiated this year with Unifor and another bargaining unit of the TCRC. ”

    So according to the CEO , the labourers / Union members are the unreasonable ones and are the reason that is currently impacting employees, CN customers, and the Canadian economy. And according to his version , the “union” wants wage and benefit improvements beyond those negotiated with another union and another Teamster unit .

    2nd part , quote:

    “Safety is a core value at CN. Although the union has claimed that the strike was about safety, those statements do not reflect our discussions. For the safety concerns raised, we have proposed viable solutions because we want all employees to go home safely at the end of their shift.

    We have committed to work with the union on all issues that are important to them. We have local Health and Safety committees and a national senior policy committee, which have been functioning for decades and are comprised of senior union and Company leaders. These well-functioning committees are designed to discuss both local and national issues and find solutions. ”

    So according to the CEO’s “update” and version , the current union dispute is based on the current union being dishonest , unreasonable , and them being the big bad wolf in the situation which has brought on a standstill negatively affecting CN clients and the economy , and in no way CN’s fault .

    What that CEO update clearly demonstrates is why there is no breakthrough in current negotiations and why the situation has transitioned to the point where union members walked off the job . It’s literally impossible to come to an agreement in a blame game while attempting to portray oneself as the “white knight” .

    According to the current union’s disagreement and version , they don’t want a lifetime capped benefit plan . And their version concerning safety is being neglected .

    So the public should turn to the news in regards to derailments , collisions involving trains , and deaths caused by trains and railcars . Then we the public can take a look at what the Railroad Workers United are reporting in regards to railroad worker safety issues and see if this is really all an exaggerated claim by “the big bad unreasonable wolf” railroad workers being unreasonable and “dishonest” .

    Rather than defend “committees” who appear to have failed and are failing in their “safety” duties , perhaps the “captain” should be impartial and really hone in on the “problem” and find a solution rather than blame the one’s at the bottom of the food chain .

    Government’s mistake was in privatizing CN in the first place . Are we the public to believe that “government” will act impartially towards a corporation in a dispute with workers by meddling in their dispute that doesn’t regard them ?

    And how impartial could their decision really be in regards to :

    Quote :

    “CN Advocacy

    CN’s business can be significantly impacted by government actions, decisions, and regulations. The Company works continuously to build and maintain positive and constructive relationships with government officials at all levels.

    This allows CN to continue to earn trust and respect in the public sector, obtain government support for its activities and initiatives, and to contribute to and collaborate with the communities where the Company operates.

    CN maintains registrations for in-house lobbyists where required by law. Our lobbying activities are registered in various jurisdictions in Canada and the U.S., many of which provide public disclosure with details of registrations. Links to each of the public lobbyist registrations, where available, can be found below:”

    So in layman terms , CN builds relationships with government to favor their wishes . And we the public are to expect an impartial fair decision if government meddles through a binding arbitration “negotiation” while forcing workers back to work which would continue to put profits in CN shareholder’s pockets at the expense of forced workers to labour while CN attempts to obtain what they want through a binding arbitration ? And that appears fair to you ?

    I don’t believe that Railroaders Killed in the Line of Duty is a myth . I believe it’s a security issued that isn’t being addressed properly .

    As far as I’m concerned , government should render all companies that have such an important impact on their economies Crown Corporations , and in doing so should abolish income tax, capital gains tax , and consumption taxes . They could provide jobs and “earn” their keep to “serve” the publics needs . And to do this fairly they should start going on a buying spree and buy out what their Country’s need in order to sustain itself .

    Now that would be a debt worth creating by borrowing capital from themselves interest free rather than taxing and creating wealth inequality in the process which leads to disputes such as the current one between CN and their labours who are used to enrich their shareholders .

    In conclusion : It takes two to tango , and 3 is a crowd .

    But hey , this is all in my humble opinion …………….

  2. Unions should create labour documentaries .

    They should position themselves to show the public what workers actually go through and what goes on in their day to day jobs on work sites . It would be quite educational and serve as proof in cases where potential disputes could arise in such instances such as labour safety and or corporate abuse .

    Be transparent .

    Example :
    Trucking carriers want to instill self facing in cab cameras to film drivers . Then perhaps drivers should wear cameras that film their day to day job conditions and employers . For “safety” reasons of course .(wink)

    In my humble opinion ………

  3. Quote in parts :
    November 21, 2019
    7:38 PM EST
    “Federal ministers ‘focused’ on collective bargaining to resolve CN Rail strike

    “Federal ministers expressed faith in the collective bargaining process and would not comment on the possibility of back to work legislation, as a national railway strike continued into its third day on Thursday.”

    “Transport Minister Marc Garneau said the government is aware of the enormous impact the strike is having.
    “We are completely seized with the situation that exists at the moment. We know with this strike, there is a large impact economically to all regions of Canada,” he said.”

    “Garneau was asked repeatedly if his government was prepared to introduce back-to-work legislation and said they don’t believe that would be the fastest way to end this strike.

    “We are focused on getting the two sides to resolve their issues through collective bargaining,” he said.”

    “Filomena Tassi, who was appointed as labour minister on Wednesday, said a federal mediator is working with both CN and the Teamsters union, who represent rail workers. She said they firmly believe this dispute is best resolved at the negotiating table.

    “That is the best possible agreement for both parties at that table to come to an agreement.”
    If the house were recalled early it could likely still take days for legislation to be passed and work through the Senate.”

    End quote

  4. Great CN article on Seeking Alpha titled :

    Canadian National’s Best Days Could Be Long Gone
    Nov. 11, 2019 4:40 PM ET

    And thank you to the Teamsters for showing the public what a monopoly CN is . And here we thought government was suppose to prevent monopolies or break them up !

    Quote :
    “Canadian National and Canadian Pacific operate monopolies on significant parts of their railway networks. ”

    “They enjoy almost unlimited power over rates and service in uncontested or “captive” markets and at present there are no market-based solutions to counteract that power.”

    ABOLISH THE CANADIAN RAIL MONOPOLY !

    In my humble opinion ………….

    Great article published in 2014

    quote :

    CEO Doesn’t Want Government to Mess with Canadian National Railway’s Monopoly

    “The Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act tabled March 26 by the federal government has stirred a growing debate about the rail transport monopolies in Canada, held by Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway (Edmonton Journal, Calgary Herald). The legislation has been introduced in an attempt to help level the playing field between Canadian grain farmers and the 2 rail giants which have been accused of letting grain pile up at elevators across the prairies while hauling more lucrative oil and other dangerous goods shipments.

    Transport of a bumper grain crop has been backlogged for months and has seen farmers lose between $2 billion and $3.5 billion in sales so far. As a result, grain farmers lobbied the federal and provincial governments to help address this backlog to prevent further damage to Canada’s agricultural economy. Earlier in March, Transport Canada issued an emergency directive to railways giving them 4 weeks to double their grain shipments to a combined target of 1 million metric tonnes/week or face fines of up to $100,000 per day. The new act extends that directive to August 3, 2014, gives the federal government the power in the future to set minimum grain transport volume requirements, and lets a shipper who is served by only 1 rail company switch its traffic to another railway at a regulated rate under certain conditions.

    Some farm groups and provincial governments, including the Alberta government and the Alberta Federation of Agriculture, have applauded the new federal legislation; while others, such as the Saskatchewan government, Alberta Barley and Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, don’t think the legislation goes far enough. The Saskatchewan government thinks that the penalty payments should be higher and should go to farmers rather than federal coffers, and that minimum volume numbers should be boosted.

    Montreal-based CN CEO Claude Mongeau has lashed out at the federal government, calling the legislation unfair and heavy-handed. He has suggested the bill could undermine rail viability and accused the government of unfairly penalizing railways to satisfy the demands of the vocal farming constituency. Several farming group leaders said Mongeau’s comments prove that we need more competition in Canada’s rail industry.

    Mongeau is well known for his hyperbolic language whenever he defends the commercial marketplace and CN’s profitability. The fact is, CN’s actions have hurt an important sector of Canada’s economy. Mongeau made similarly exaggerative comments in response to the federal government’s Fair Rail Freight Service Act which was passed last June to level the playing field between freight shippers and the 2 rail giants because rail service had been deteriorating over the years as CN and CP cut operating costs to boost their bottom lines. In short, CN’s and CP’s profits were increasing, while customer service was decreasing, and unfortunately shippers were at the mercy of the 2 rail companies. “

  5. For those interested , you should check out the articles on Railroaded

    The current issue regarding CN worker safety issue is all deja vu ! And the “fight” for railworker safety 6 YEARS later continues !

    Quote:

    Oct. 15, 2013:
    CN Workers Ready to Fight for Rail Safety

    An October 14 Teamsters Canada news release reads:

    The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), which represents some 3,300 conductors, trainmen, yardmen and traffic coordinators at Canadian National (CN), are gearing up for a fight with the railway company…

    What these concessions would mean is that CN workers would be required to work longer hours with less rest time in between trips, which flies in the face of scientific research on fatigue management. In July, CN CEO Claude Mongeau said that railways had to make safety their ‘number one priority’.

    However, the employer’s demands seem to contradict this statement, and now Teamsters are having to gear up for a fight to ensure the safety of Canadians and rail workers.” (Canada NewsWire)

    Rail safety critics say this is but one more example of CN corporate attempting to portray itself as being serious about addressing rail safety shortfalls, but in fact putting the bottom line ahead of safety.”

    Check this one :

    Quote :

    April 18, 2014:
    CN Railway Fined for Firing Injured Worker
    Following a whistle-blower investigation by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Canadian National Railway has been ordered to pay $352,000 to a former employee who was fired after reporting a workplace injury (Journal Sentinel). The OSHA also ordered CN to reinstate the employee, a conductor, to his job. An OSHA administrator said, “No worker should feel his job is at risk for reporting an injury or seeking medical attention.”

    The conductor injured one of his arms in early 2011 while working in Manitowoc for Wisconsin Central Ltd., a business unit of CN.”

    AND THIS ONE !

    Quote :

    March 14, 2015:
    New Tank Car Standards Proposed by Federal Government but Not Until 2025
    Following a rash of oil train derailments, spills and fires, Transport Canada released a proposal March 11 that would require tank cars used to haul crude oil and other flammable goods to meet new standards that include thicker steel, thermal protection, full shields at each end, and more protection over the valves (Globe and Mail).

    That’s the good news. The bad news is, the new standards do not need to be implemented until 2025, which means crude oil and other flammable dangerous goods will continue to be shipped in inferior tank cars that puncture easily during derailments for another 10 years.”

    DRAW YOUR OWN CONCLUSION !

    I agree government definitely needs to intervene ! DO NOT LEAVE SUCH CANADIAN ECONOMIC RESPONSIBILITIES IN FOR PROFIT PRIVATE HANDS ! THE CROWN SHOULD OWN THEM !

    In my humble opinion …………..

  6. Update November 22 2019

    Quote in part :

    “Canada’s biggest rail strike in a decade drags on with no real progress

    The union’s demands center on issues related to working conditions, including fatigue and rest breaks.
    Teamsters Canada said “no substantive progress has been made on the union’s key workplace safety and health issues” since the strike began Nov. 19.

    The Teamsters also suggested CN appeared to be manufacturing the propane shortage by deliberately choosing not to transport the product. CN is using managers to run small numbers of trains during the strike.

    Industry and the premier of the Canadian province of Quebec have warned the strike was creating a shortage of propane, used to heat homes in some provinces and to fuel crop dryers for farmers.

    “While CN is nowhere near operating at full capacity, we think enough trains are running to allow CN to supply Ontario and Quebec with propane,” said Lyndon Isaak, president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference. “We wonder if CN is choosing not to ship goods like propane in order to manufacture a crisis.”

    A CN spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment on the union’s statement.”

    End quote .

    Now isn’t that interesting .

    In my humble opinion ……………..

  7. GREAT ARTICLE on FIGHTBACK The Marxist Voice Of Labour And Youth

    CN Rail strike: Strike to win!
    Kristen Prior ★ Nov 20, 2019

    Quote :

    On the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 19, more than 3,000 Canadian National Railway (CN) workers represented by Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) went on strike over restrictions to time off, a cap on prescription drug coverage, and dangerous conditions surrounding remote control train operations. The strike follows several months of mediated talks since the workers’ last collective agreement expired in July, and a vote held in September that resulted in an astounding 99.2 per cent in favour of strike action.

    Fatigue is one of the biggest issues facing the railroad industry, but CN bosses seem determined not to address these problems. They are attempting to make employees work longer hours while simultaneously putting greater restrictions on taking time off. TCRC members who request further rest time are frequently denied. While there are those who will not go to work because they know it is unsafe, many more accept this treatment out of fear of disciplinary action or worry for their fellow workers.

    CN workers are currently required to control trains by operating a remotely controlled locomotive with one hand while they hang onto the outside of the train with the other. Railroaders are expected to do this on their own in rain and freezing temperatures, for up to 27 km at times. These rules, combined with the long hours and refusal to accommodate much-needed rest time, are a recipe for greater levels of injury and sickness among CN workers.

    At the negotiating table, CN is intent on forcing the union to accept binding arbitration in an attempt to avoid having to answer to the Teamsters’ concerns over safety. This comes after CN laid off 1,600 management and union staff, supposedly due to declining freight volumes over the last period. Yet while the strike and talks are ongoing, CN is sending management to move trains as far out as Saskatoon. It is becoming quite clear that CN bosses do not care about the safety of their employees, but only about the safety of their profits.

    Most of the clients of CN have no alternatives to move their goods, either because of the location of their operations or due to the sheer size of their shipments. CN workers are in an extremely good position to win the demands they have set out for. Without the conductors, train personnel, and yard workers, important freight traffic across the country would grind to a halt, and the bosses know this all too well.

    The previous strike at CN by train engineers in 2009 lasted three days, and the Conservative government was already planning to serve them back-to-work legislation. While current Labour Minister Patty Hajdu says she has faith in the collective bargaining process, historically rail strikes were quick to be legislated back, as they are such an enormous part of Canada’s economy. Chemical facilities alone are impacted by $1 million per day and 60 percent of crude-by-rail exports are shipped through these workers.

    CN transports about $250 billion worth of goods annually across various industries. This is the power of just over 3,000 workers.
    In the event that the striking workers are ordered back to work, defying such undemocratic legislation would make it clear who really runs the rail industry and creates the profits the CN bosses are so concerned for. The company would have no leg to stand on when confronted with the shutdown of such a vital industry.

    Solidarity with the striking TCRC members!

    No acceptance of arbitration, strike to win!

    Defy back-to-work legislation!

    Put an end to dangerous work practices!

    End quote :

    Speaking of Crude by rail , check ,

    “Suzuki at Gogama derailment site: Someone should go to jail for this”

    And
    February 2019
    “Dozens of train cars carrying oil derail in Manitoba
    ” some pipeline supporters say the incident highlights the risks involved in moving oil by rail”

  8. UPDATED ARTICLE :

    Teamsters point finger at CN Rail over propane shortage from strike

    Quote:

    “Lyndon Isaak, TCRC president, speculated that the company may be throttling the supply of propane.
    “CN is far from operating at full capacity, but we believe there are enough trains going around to allow the company to supply propane to Ontario and Quebec,” said Isaak. “The question is whether CN refuses to transport propane to create a crisis and force a special back-to-work law.”

    1. Union Blames CN Rail for Propane Shortages in Canada Rail Strike

      Quote:

      “The fact that the trains are not transporting propane is a business decision by CN Rail, as more than 1,800 locomotive engineers and 600 supervisors are free to cross picket lines and continue to operate freight trains, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference said in a statement Friday.

      “While CN is nowhere near operating at full capacity, we think enough trains are running to allow CN to supply Ontario and Quebec with propane,” Lyndon Isaak, president of the union, said in the statement. “We wonder if CN is choosing not to ship goods like propane in order to manufacture a crisis and force back-to-work legislation.”

Close