UPDATE: CP’s unions invoke 72-hour notice; strike could commence Tuesday evening

A strike on the Canadian Pacific system could hit the railroad as early as 10 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday.

Both the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference and the IBEW System Council notified Canadian Pacific late Saturday that they were implementing the legal 72-hour notice to strike. 

“CP has commenced its work stoppage contingency plan and will work closely with customers to ensure a smooth, efficient and safe wind down of operations,” the company said in a prepared statement in reaction to the two unions’ action.

The wording of the notice states that the earliest the unions could go on strike would be Tuesday evening, but that it is not assured.

“CP is offering more of the same contract language that workers just voted to reject a few hours ago,” Doug Finnson, President of the TCRC said in the union’s statement. “The company clearly isn’t serious about reaching a negotiated settlement and delivering on their promise to do right by their employees.”  

The notice follows an overwhelming rejection by the rank-and-file of what CP said was a final offer. Negotiations resumed Friday in Calgary.

Such a 72-hour notice is necessary before the railroad can stop operations or a union can go on strike. Unions did issue that notice back in April, but a strike did not occur as the unions agreed that the CP offer could be put to its members.

The contract offers that were rejected were not an agreement between the unions and CP, but instead was an offer made by CP to the workers. The unions had recommended rejection, and the vote to reject was reported to be close to 98%. CP and its unions have gone through three strikes in recent years.

In the Teamsters’ prepared statement released Friday after the vote, TCRC President Doug Finnson ripped into CP. “CP’s actions have forced us to vote for strike action three times in the past six years,” he said. “Today, our members have again expressed their anger and frustration with CP. This is a reality check. It’s now up to CP to listen and show they respect workers by changing their confrontational relationship with their employees, our members.”  

 “CP is disappointed with the outcome of the vote given that both final offers provided for significant improvements to wages, benefits and working conditions that are consistent with agreements recently reached with other CP unions in both the United States and Canada,” the railroad said in its prepared statement.

In a web page directed at union members, CP said of its offer that it “offers improve(d) member wages, benefits, and essentially ask for nothing in return beyond certainty and stability for the next three years.”

A strike would hit transport markets at a time when alternative truck capacity is tight and there are increasing reports of movement off of trucks and into the intermodal sector. Canadian Pacific has extensive trackage in the northeast and upper Midwest U.S. as well as Canada.

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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.