A Canadian federal minister signaled that the federal government would consider forcing an end to the nearly week-old strike by Canadian National (NYSE: CNI) workers that has taken an increasingly grave toll on the country’s supply chain.
“Every option is always on the table, but for the time being, we hope we can get to an agreement,” Marie-Claude Bibeau said in Regina, Saskatchewan, Nov. 25. after a reporter asked if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government would consider pursuing binding arbitration or legislate the striking CN workers back to work.
Bibeau’s comments came as CN reported a 37% drop in revenue ton-miles and a 19% decline in carloads during the week of Nov. 17-23. While those declines are substantial, the numbers nonetheless suggest a herculean effort to squeeze as much freight through a network reportedly operating at 10% capacity.
Beyond CN’s metrics, the strike’s impact has intensified across industries that rely on the country’s largest rail network. The latest casualty was Nutrien, which announced it would close one of its largest potash mines for two weeks because of the disruption.
“It is extremely disappointing that in a year when the agricultural sector has been severely impacted by poor weather and trade disputes, the CN strike will add further hardship to the Canadian agriculture industry,” Nutrien President Chuck Magro said in a statement.
In Quebec, emergency shipments of propane have bought time as shortages to a vital heating fuel gripped the province.
Also on Nov. 25, protesting farmers descended on Trudeau’s Montreal’s office — a day after targeting CN. While Canadians have appeared split in their ire toward CN and the striking workers represented by the Teamsters, frustration toward Trudeau’s government has proved universal.
“We are pushing both parties,” Bibeau said.
Some 3,200 CN conductors, trainpersons and yard workers went on strike just after midnight Nov. 18. They have been without a contract since June, and their stated demands focus on safety issues and benefits.
CN, for its part, said it has offered proposals to address safety concerns but that Teamsters’ demands in negotiations extend beyond the union’s public statements.