More than 3,000 CN workers on strike, shutting down Canadas biggest rail network – The Globe and Mail

More than 3,000 CN workers on strike, shutting down Canadas biggest rail network - The Globe and Mail
Thousands of CN Rail employees are on strike, but talks continue
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More than 3,000 Canadian National Railway Co. train operators went on strike just past midnight on Tuesday morning, shutting down Canadas largest rail network.

More than 3,000 Canadian National Railway rail workers on strike

The workers, represented by Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, and CN failed to reach an agreement on a new contract after several months of mediated talks, the union said.

Both import and export goods coming through the port every day — 140-million tonnes of everything that Canada exports and imports. Thats a considerable amount of cargo, he told NEWS 1130 Monday, just before CN workers decided to strike later.

Talks to replace an agreement that expired in July are scheduled to continue today at a downtown Montreal hotel.

They would need to get legislation passed. The state of federal politics does introduce perhaps a little bit more uncertainty than there normally is in these cases, he explains, adding business in Prince Rupert would suffer immediately.

They talked right up until midnight and continued talking well past midnight, Mr. Monette said by phone. Were still in negotiations. We broke to get some rest but its going to resume a little later today.

For some of the other users it depends how long it goes on and how long people think its going to go on. If producers think its going to just be a short-term thing, expect them to shift some cargo to trucking and use that mode.

CN has been winding down operations ahead of the possible strike, a safety measure taken to avoid leaving loaded trains in storage or on tracks. The railway stopped picking up some hazardous goods and interchange cars from other railways in the past couple of days, according to an internal memo seen by the Globe and Mail.

MONTREAL — About 3,200 Canadian National Railway conductors, trainpersons and yard workers are on strike after the union and company failed to reach a deal by the midnight deadline.

Thousands of CN Rail employees head on strike, but talks continue

CN said in the memo it will use qualified managers to move operate some trains, focusing on container shipments.

It represents workers at commuter rail services including Go Transit in Toronto, Exo in Montreal and the West Coast Express in Vancouver, where passengers would remain unaffected.

Canadian ministers meet with CN Rail, union in effort to avert strike

However, the grain companies, farmers, chemical makers, miners and retailers that rely on CN to get their goods to and from market have no real shipping alternatives. Many are captive to CN, given their location, and trucks are too small.

Union spokesman Christopher Monette says they are still in talks with CN in hopes of reaching a negotiated settlement and ending the labour dispute as soon as possible.

The two sides failed to reach an agreement despite the urging of two federal ministers on Monday night. Transport Minister Marc Garneau and Labour Minister Patty Hajdu met with CN and union representatives separately in Montreal to try to settle their differences.

The workers, who have been without a contract since July 23, say theyre concerned about long hours, fatigue and what they consider dangerous working conditions.

The union says the main issues are on drug benefits, time off and remote control train operations. Wages are not in dispute.

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We are disappointed that the [union] has initiated strike action, which will result in a significant disruption to service, said Janet Drysdale, CNs vice-president of financial planning, at a Toronto investors conference on Tuesday morning. We apologize to our customers and appreciate their understanding that safety is always our first priority.​

Canadian National Railway (TSX:CNR) operates in rail and related transportation business. The company transports freight serving exporters, importers, retailers, farmers, and manufacturers. It operates a network of approximately 20,000 route miles of track spanning the whole of North America connecting the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Gulf of Mexico.

CN and the same group of CN employees reached an agreement in 2015 after then-labour minister Kellie Leitch warned she would block any strike with legislation.

The strike comes at a difficult time for Jean-Jacques Ruest, CNs chief executive officer. CN is laying off about 1,600 management and union staff as it faces declining freight volumes amid global trade tensions that have dampened exports. The worlds economies are also showing signs of slowing. Mr. Ruest was named CEO in July 2018, after serving as interim CEO for a few months. He took the lead at CN at a time it was facing complaints from shippers and the government about poor service, and oversaw a period of increased capital spending and hiring.

Rail freight revenue, measuring the relative weight and distance of freight transported by Canadian National, declined by 1% from the year-earlier period. Freight revenue per ton mile increased by 6% year over year, which was mainly driven by inflation rate increases and higher intermodal revenues.

CN, which employs about 24,000 people in Canada and the United States, made a profit of $1.2-billion in the latest quarter and posted a 4-per-cent rise in revenue to $3.8-billion, compared to the third quarter of 2018. CN reduced its profit outlook due to the weakening economy.

Canada, one of the world’s biggest exporters of farm products, relies on its two main railways to move canola and wheat over the vast distances from western farms to ports. Crude oil shippers in Alberta have also used trains in the past two years to reach U.S. refineries as an alternative to congested pipelines.

Via Rail, Canadas passenger train service that operates mainly on CN lines, will not be adversely affected by the strike, the union has said. Similarly, commuter rail operations in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal will be unaffected.

We have an agreement that we can continue to operate, said Anne Marie Aikins, a spokeswoman for Metrolinx, the operator of Go Transit and Up Express passenger rail services, which run on tracks in southern Ontario fully or partly owned by CN.​

Canada’s Liberal government sent two ministers on Monday to meet with representatives of Canadian National Railway Ltd and its largest union, as already hard-hit shippers pleaded for government intervention to avert a strike planned for early on Tuesday.

This is the first strike at CN since 2009, when train engineers walked off the job for three days before settling. The Progressive Conservative government was preparing back-to-work legislation to avoid harming the economy.

CN Rail faces midnight strike deadline, with around 3,200 ready to walk

Canadian pacific Railway Ltd. has had had three strikes by train crews since 2012. The 2018 walkout last less than a day, and the brief strikes of 2015 and 2012 were ended by legislation or amid the threat of legislation.

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Todays Liberal government has shown no interest in legislating ends to strikes. The government of Canada supports and has faith in the collective bargaining process, Ms. Hajdu said in a statement on the weekend. ​

It represents workers at commuter rail services including Go Transit in Toronto, Exo in Montreal and the West Coast Express in Vancouver, where passengers would remain unaffected.

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About 3,200 Canadian National Railway conductors, trainpersons and yard workers are on strike after the union and company failed to reach a deal by the midnight ET deadline.

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CN strike adds to woes for already battered Western farmers

About 3,200 Canadian National Railway conductors, trainpersons and yard workers are on strike after the union and company failed to reach a deal by the midnight ET deadline.

A walkout would potentially crimp shipments of oil, potash, grains and consumer goods even if managers trained to operate trains would blunt the impact at Canadian National. Teamsters Canada Rail Conference said a strike would begin Tuesday if a deal cant be reached on working conditions and prescription drug benefits.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, the union representing the employees, gave the required 72-hour strike notice on the weekend.

The Teamsters argue that workers are being forced to operate trains alone from outside the locomotive while hanging on to moving trains with one hand and working a remote-control device in the other, creating a safety hazard. The union is also balking at a lifetime cap on prescription drug coverage.

Union spokesperson Christopher Monette says they are still in talks with CN in hopes of reaching a negotiated settlement and ending the labour dispute as soon as possible.

Canadian Labour Minister Patty Hajdu traveled to Montreal on Monday to meet representatives from both sides. In a Nov. 16 statement, Hajdu said the federal government is monitoring the situation closely and has faith in the collective bargaining process.

The union has said passenger rail services in the country's three biggest cities would not be affected by the strike.

Although a strike would crimp Canadian Nationals cargo volume, the labor action likely wouldnt long and the impact on the companys earnings wouldnt be meaningful, said Allison Landry, an analyst with Credit Suisse Group AG, in a note to clients.

It represents workers at commuter rail services including Go Transit in Toronto, Exo in Montreal and the West Coast Express in Vancouver, where passengers would remain unaffected.

In the most recent quarter, Canadian Pacific said the company’s operating ratio, a closely watched productivity metric that measures expenses as a percentage of revenue, fell 2.2% to a record low of 56.1% Q3 2019. This is a phenomenal result that demonstrates the improvement in company operations. The lower the ratio, the more efficient a railroad. Canadian Pacific had an operating ratio of +80% in 2011 and, at the time, was North America’s worst-run railroad.

The workers, who have been without a contract since July 23, say they're concerned about long hours, fatigue and what they consider dangerous working conditions.

"We have members out there who are operating trains when they should in fact be resting," Monette told CBC News after the strike began.

The company has faced regular labour disruptions — in 2018, Canadian Pacific received a 72-hour strike notice from the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference – Train & Engine (TCRC), representing approximately 3,000 conductors and locomotive engineers, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), representing approximately 360 signal maintainers, of their respective plans to strike.

The dispute comes as CN confirmed Friday that it was cutting jobs across the railway as it deals with a weakening North American economy that has eroded demand.

Canadian Pacific is an iconic Canadian company with a rich legacy. The company has made huge progress over the last nine years under the leadership of the late Hunter Harrison, who was succeeded by his protégé Keith Creel. Canadian Pacific looks set to continue to outperform the Canadian stock market index over the next several years and appears to be a great buy at current prices.

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