CP Rail’s Speedy Strike Ends After Just Two Days
Over the last few weeks, you may have heard about an oncoming strike by workers at Canadian Pacific, one of North America’s most important rail carriers. Fears swirled last week as the strike deadline loomed and this newest delay looked poised to become the next week’s long logistics disaster in a series of serious delays, following in the steps of previous major crises’ like the trucker convoy and November’s B.C floods. Though the strikes did happen, they saw a quick resolution, a welcome surprise to those in the industry.
Let’s rewind a bit. CP Management and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) had been at the table for weeks trying to reach a new collective agreement. The talks, broadly speaking, were about the usual union vs management topics; increased wages, benefits, pension, and the like. As talks began to deteriorate each side took increasingly intense action to ratchet up the pressure on negotiations. Way back on March 4th, the Teamsters voted 96.7% to begin striking on March 16th, should the talks not result in a new agreement. Though this ended up being extended by a few days, as mediators seemed to be coming closer to an agreement, talks once again began to come off the rails (pun intended).
On March 16th CP sent out a notice that they would be locking out the teamsters on March 20th in order to speed up negotiations and limit the amount of uncertainty for customers. When the 20th rolled around service did indeed stop, though it’s unclear who was responsible as both sides pointed the finger at the other when asked by media. Regardless, service was stopped for less than 48 hours before the news broke of an end to the stoppage.
CP employees were back to work by noon on Tuesday (CP Rail’s Speedy Strike) as both sides mutually agreed to binding arbitration in order to resolve their disagreements. As is the case with most arbitrations, it’s unlikely that either side will end up completely happy with the result. However, the compromise is being lauded by industry stakeholders as a huge success, and a much-needed reprieve from the onslaught of delays that have been unfolding over the past few weeks and months.
The Big Impact of a Little Strike
One of the reasons that this service disruption was resolved so quickly, likely had to do with the amount of pushback received by both sides from industry experts, governments, and businesses.
Before the strike had even begun there were already calls for the federal government to push through back to work legislation if service was effected. At a time when supply chains are already under so much stress, many were pushing for rail service to be considered an essential service. This was largely because, one of the industries most affected by the stoppage was agriculture, which relies on rail for both the export of goods and for delivering crucial fertilizers and other feedstocks. On the first day of the strike, U.S businesses and allegedly even some in the U.S government were calling on Canada to put a swift end to the strike.
Many have worried about how this, even very short, stoppage in service might affect the trade relationship between Canada and the U.S. Though on it’s on it wouldn’t be cause for much concern, combined with the recent blockages at major border crossings, this stoppage could make U.S companies reconsider some of their relationships north of the border as Canada somewhat loses its reputation as a reliable trade partner.
Though the stoppage may create some delays for shippers in the coming days, the much more concerning effect is the damage it may do to Canada’s most important trade relationship.