OTTAWA, Ont. — The federal government has tabled a back-to-work legislation in an effort to put 2,800 striking employees at CN Rail back on the job.
Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn told the House of Commons that the strike cant be allowed to continue due to backlogs and supply shortages throughout industry and in communities across the country.
He said the effect of the strike has been devastating and could get worse because it will take four or five days to pass the back-to-work legislation; and a settlement between the two sides in the near future is unlikely.
In its 14th day the labour dispute has had a negative impact in a number of industry sectors including forestry, grain producers, chemical and plastic manufacturers, port operations, and automakers.
“The strike of conductors and yard-service personnel at CN has now been in progress for 13 days and has done considerable harm to the Canadian economy” said Bob Ballantyne, president of the 120-member Canadian Industrial Transportation Association (CITA).
The CITA membership, which includes many large and well-known companies, has reported significant service deterioration since the strike started, resulting in materials shortages, curtailed or halted productions and layoffs.
The Ford Motor Company of Canada has blamed the rail strike for the shut down of its St. Thomas plant in southwestern Ontario, citing a shortage in manufacturing materials. The closure affects 2,300 people employed at the plant, which makes the Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis model cars.
The automaker is reviewing the situation on a day-to-day basis to determine when the plant can be reopened.
Short-term alternatives to companies served by CN are not readily available at a time of high demand and severe winter weather, noted the CITA. The associations retail members are facing problems in obtaining large numbers of containers of consumer products from the Orient through the west coast ports. As well manufacturing and natural resource producers will be unable to meet their commitments to their domestic and export customers.
As a result of the CN and United Transportation Union of Canada (UTU) dispute, the Port of Vancouver estimates cargo volumes are down by 50%. In the initial 10 days of the strike, the port estimated $730 million in cargo has been held up and the situation is deteriorating.
The labour dispute is compounded by severe winter weather conditions across the transportation network, with port customers and terminals reporting significant reductions in service levels.
“The timing of this dispute, in the midst of significant weather-related disruptions to the transportation chain, preys upon those who depend on the port for their livelihoods and makes the situation worse,” said Captain Gordon Houston, president and CEO of the Vancouver Port Authority.
The main issues behind the labour dispute have been safety, working conditions and wages.
— with files from The Canadian Press
Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry. All posts by Truck News