MONTREAL—Canadian shippers breathed a collective sigh of relief yesterday after CP Rail reached a tentative agreement with its train crews to end a strike mere hours after it began.
The Calgary railway and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference reached a four-year deal while the union also completed a five-year agreement for the Kootenay Valley Railway.
Full operations at both railways were to resume across Canada early this morning, the union said in a news release.
“We believe this is a fair contract that our members can feel good about ratifying,” said union president Doug Finnson.
“I am personally very satisfied with what we have negotiated.”
Railway CEO Keith Creel lauded the agreement as positive for 12,000 CP Rail employees, customers, and the entire Canadian economy.
“It is especially meaningful to achieve a four-year tentative agreement with our valued locomotive engineers and conductors, providing long-term stability for all parties involved,” he said in a statement.
“This is a significant step toward a renewed positive relationship growing forward together serving our customers and the Canadian economy.”
The tentative agreements must be ratified by Teamsters members over the coming months.
Details of the agreement are being withheld pending ratification.
Employment minister Patty Hajdu thanked the parties for their commitment to the collective bargaining process.
“This is 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,” she said in a statement after the agreement was announced.
Agricultural and mining shippers, who already had been calling for government intervention, said they were pleased because the quick deal will minimize the impact on their sectors.
“We were mentally prepared for a strike that would have gone on longer, but perhaps it would be fair to say that we're relieved that it's been resolved as quickly as it has been,” said Wade Sobkowich, executive director of the Western Grain Elevator Association, which represents the country's largest exporters.
He said the less-than-a-day-long strike prevented about $20 million of grain from moving—something that should be made up.
Sobkowich said he believed the two sides were under tremendous pressure from the federal government after the prime minister signalled Tuesday that it wasn't rushing to step in with back-to-work legislation or binding arbitration.
“If there was going to be a resolution to this, it was going to have to come from the negotiating table and I think that that put pressure on both sides to try and resolve things,” Sobkowich noted.