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CP Rail employees head to the picket lines as work stoppage begins

Trains across the country came to a halt Sunday, as CP Rail employees are now off the job and onto the picket lines.

The company’s roughly 3,000 employees, represented by Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), are off the job after the two sides failed to reach a deal before a midnight deadline set by the union and the company for either a strike or a lockout.

"We’re disappointed to once again be in a work stoppage; none of us want to be out here on the picket line," said TCRC local chairman Jason Hnatiuk told CTV News while picketing outside a Port Coquitlam CP Rail office Sunday.

On Wednesday, CP set a 72-hour deadline for a deal to be reached before it locked employees out.

"We had no intention in of shutting the rail down, it was our intention to continue to negotiate in good faith, but unfortunately once the employer issued a lockout notice, we had no choice but to issue a strike notice in order to protect our members," Hnatiuk said.

However, the company is painting a different picture.

“We are deeply disappointed that, in the final hours before a legal strike or lockout was to potentially occur, the TCRC Negotiating Committee failed to respond to the company’s latest offer that was presented to them by the federal mediators,” said Keith Creel, CP’s president and chief executive officer, in a statement.

“Instead, the TCRC opted to withdraw their services before the deadline for a strike or lockout could legally take place. The TCRC is well aware of the damage this reckless action will cause to the Canadian supply chain.”

The Surrey Board of Trade is deeply concerned about the possible impacts the work stoppage could have on the agriculture sector.

“One-third of Surrey’s land base is dedicated to agricultural production,” said Anita Huberman, president and CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade.

“The potential CP Rail labour strike will have a devastating impact on the entire agriculture value-chain that has already suffered through drought, wildfires, flooding, blockades, the pandemic, snowfall and more.”

Huberman says her organization is calling on the federal government to implement back-to-work legislation, and to introduce legislation designating rail service as an essential service.

On Sunday, federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan Jr. took to Twitter saying, “CP and Teamsters continue their work today … Canadians are counting on a quick resolution.”

Hnatiuk says wage increases and pensions are two keys issues, which he feels may take a while to resolve.

"I believe, unfortunately, the sides are still a long ways apart,” he said. Top Stories

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