CP strike watch update: CP, IBEW reach agreement; no word yet on Teamsters

  Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

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. 

Update, 11:00 p.m. EDT 4/29

Soon after the 10 p.m. deadline for when a strike action by Canadian Pacific's two unions could have commenced. the railroad announced an agreement with the smaller of the two bargaining units. 

The railroad said it had reached agreement with System Council No. 11 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). "The tentative agreement ensures that IBEW employees remain on the job and passenger operations are not impacted," CP said in a prepared statement.

The statement said nothing about negotiations with the larger Teamsters bargaining unit, which became free to strike at 10 p.m. Eastern time. 

Update, 11:30 a.m. EDT 4/29: 

Talks are continuing between Canadian Pacific and its unions, according to the head of the division of the IBEW at Canadian Pacific.

Steve Martin, the senior general counsel of IBEW System Council No. 11, said Tuesday morning that the two sides are "still in discussion," but declined to offer any updates on their status, including whether CP had revised the offer it made to the unions that was roundly defeated last week.

Martin did say that if progress was being made at 10 p.m. Eastern time this evening, the clock could be "stopped" and that discussions could continue. The unions have authorized a strike at that hour, but it is not required if no agreement is in place at that time.

The three sides of the discussions--CP, Teamsters Canada and the IBEW--have not issued any formal statements on the negotiations since they announced the strike authorization vote late Saturday night.

Update, 7:30 a.m. EDT, 4/27:

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.