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Strike halts freight shipments in Canada

Keywords: Tags  Canadian Pacific Railway, Teamsters, labor strike, Doug Finnson, corinna petry

CHICAGO — About 4,800 Canadian Pacific Railway workers went on strike Wednesday, but union and company representatives are continuing to negotiate.

The Teamsters issued 72 hours’ notice Saturday of its intent to strike, and the two sides "were unable to reach an agreement despite last-minute negotiations right to the strike deadline," union vice president Doug Finnson said in a statement. The union, which represents engineers, conductors and rail traffic controllers, has agreed to continue uninterrupted commuter rail service in the provinces served by Canadian Pacific.

"No current alternatives (to move freight) are being arranged until an agreement is in place or binding arbitration with the union—which (the railroad) supports—is agreed upon, allowing the work stoppage to halt and Canadian operations to resume," a Canadian Pacific spokesman told AMM.

The company said that among the issues dividing the two sides are contributions to the pension plan. Canadian Pacific said it needs to make changes to legacy pension and post-retirement benefits "to make them industry-comparable."

"Every union member knows how important the outstanding issues are," Finnson said. "We will not walk away from the negotiating table."

The impact of the strike on companies awaiting shipments of metals and raw materials is not yet clear.

"The Canadian Steel Producers Association is monitoring the situation with its member firms," Ron Kane, the association’s director for trade and economics, told AMM. "Rail plays an important role in steel producers receiving their input raw materials and in getting their products to customers in a timely manner. Any disruption in service is therefore a concern to us. We hope that both sides are able to arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement that will restore rail freight services."

Calls to iron ore, ferrous scrap and steel companies were not returned.

Year to date, the railroad has shipped 18,132 carloads of metal products, 13,371 carloads of iron and steel scrap, 6,125 carloads of metallic ores and 4,306 carloads of coke.

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