Strikes called off as unions, CP reach tentative deals

(File photo by Dave Bedard)

Labour peace arrives Thursday morning at Canadian Pacific Railway, as the company and the unions for its conductors, engineers and signal maintainers have reached tentative deals.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Council No. 11, which represents about 360 CP signal maintenance staff, announced a tentative three-year deal with Calgary-based CP Tuesday evening.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), whose 3,000-odd CP locomotive engineer and conductor members had hit the picket line Tuesday at 9 p.m. CT, announced a four-year deal Wednesday. Full operations are to resume at 6 a.m. “local time” on Thursday, the Teamsters said in a release.

Details of the two agreements haven’t yet been released pending ratification votes by the two unions’ members, a process the TCRC said will take place “over the coming months.”

“We believe this is a fair contract that our members can feel good about ratifying,” TCRC president Doug Finnson said in a release. “I am personally very satisfied with what we have negotiated.”

Negotiations “were difficult but in the end we have reached a good deal for our membership and we’re looking forward to building on the momentum of the last few days,” IBEW Council No. 11 senior general chairman Steve Martin said in a separate statement.

CP CEO Keith Creel on Tuesday thanked the IBEW bargaining committee for its “hard work and… creativity” and added he “look(s) forward to working with this union to become the employer of choice.”

Creel on Wednesday added it’s “especially meaningful to achieve a four-year tentative agreement with our valued locomotive engineers and conductors, providing long-term stability for all parties involved.”

The TCRC, in a release, also credited the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) and federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu for “helping parties find common ground,” and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “for standing up for workers’ right to negotiate.”

Trudeau, speaking in Toronto Tuesday, had been quoted by Canadian Press as saying Canada has “companies that have gotten used to the fact that in certain industries, the government in the past was very quick to legislate against unions… We are not going to do that.”

“Previous governments were all too eager to threaten back-to-work legislation, acting quickly on behalf of employers against workers and their unions,” TCRC’s Finnson said Wednesday. “We thank the government for proving that collective bargaining can work when it’s allowed to.”

IBEW’s Martin on Tuesday also hailed Hajdu and FMCS mediator Peter Simpson “for coming to Calgary and working with all sides in order to find a fair deal.”

Hajdu, in a separate statement Wednesday, described the tentative deals as “further evidence that when employers, organized labour and governments work together and respect the collective bargaining process, we get the best results for Canadians and for our economy.”

Grain Growers of Canada, among other groups representing CP customers in agriculture and various industries, had warned earlier Wednesday that a strike could be “potentially disastrous” for the sector and urged Trudeau and Hajdu to legislate the Teamsters back to work.

In a separate statement later Wednesday, GGC president Jeff Nielsen credited both Trudeau and Hajdu “for their leadership in encouraging the two sides to reach the negotiated outcome that ended the work stoppage.

“With grain bins and elevators still full across the Prairies we are counting on both railways to work to full capacity to get our backlogged grain to export position,” he said.

The TCRC and CP on Wednesday also announced a tentative five-year agreement which ends a concurrent strike by Teamster-led conductors and locomotive engineers with the company’s Kootenay Valley Railway (KVR) business unit in British Columbia. — Network

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