SPECIAL REPORT: CP strike shackles intermodal; Strike heating up

TORONTO — Tensions are escalating between CP Rail and 3,200 picketing workers as the three-day rail strike heads into the weekend.

Despite the railway reporting yesterday that the labor disruption was so far only “a mild irritation” to intermodal truckers, striking union workers were able to virtually shut down traffic at the Vancouver terminal, as well as partially block container operations in Winnipeg, according to Canadian Press.

Canada’s second-largest railway quickly got an injunction in Winnipeg after the yard’s perimeter roadways became backed up with trucks delayed by striking CP workers.

Protestors can now only stop trucks entering and exiting the yard for a maximum of two minutes.

The railway has also applied for an injunction in Vancouver. However, Teamsters Canada Rail Conference President William Brehl says the coastal terminal remains “shut down solid.”

Truck delays in and out of CP’s Vaughn terminal are between
4 and 6 hours, the union says. (Teamsters union image).

On its website, the union reports other terminals in Edmonton, Calgary, and Vaughn (north of Toronto) were “plugged up solid as well.” The Lachine facility in Montreal “has trucks backed up all day,” the union says.

“There’s approximately five or six hours delay at the Vaughn yard for truckers to get in and out at this point. And this is only day two,” a striking employee named “Chris” told TodaysTrucking.com yesterday afternoon. “Those who will suffer are the striking employees, first; then the (railway) for its tardiness on deliveries; and then the stores and factories waiting for their shipments. So it’s not business as usual. And delays aren’t minor, they’re getting longer.”

Speaking to media, CP spokesperson Mark Seland insisted actual rail service still wasn’t affected though, because containers take a few days to be transfered on to trains after trucks drop them off.

Shipments, however, won’t likely be arriving on time for much longer, guesses Frank Gentile, owner of Titan Cartage in Etobiboke, northeast of Toronto. “There’s a great deal of delays at both terminals in Vaughn and Etobicoke, although I’d say Etobicoke is worse,” he tells TodaysTrucking.com. “It’s impeding operations very badly.”

Gentile, who has about 25 trucks running containers in and out of both terminals, says delays are worse getting out-about two hours-than getting in the yard. He thinks this dispute is much more heated behind the scenes than the labor conflict at CN that resulted in a two-week strike in February.

“It’s just starting to gain momentum and boil over. It could escalate into something worse. I hope it doesn’t.”

Since his drivers are paid by the container move, he isn’t forcing them right now to go into the terminals and is trying his best to find other runs for them. However, he admits that all his drivers can’t possibly take him up on the offer.

“Some people I service, you just have to go in and get those cans,” he says, citing a large retail clothing chain. “There’s no two ways about it. They need those clothes.”

The union ordered workers — of which 1,300 are maintenance workers, inspectors, and track builders — to hit the bricks after talks with CP broke down last week. The union wants a 13 percent wage hike over three years, while the railway is standing firm at 10 percent.

— with files from Canadian Press

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