Legislation to end a strike by some 4,800 workers at Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CPR) was passed Thursday evening, May 31. The bill moved quickly to the Governor General, who provided Royal Assent. CPR resumed operations on Friday, June 1 at 6:45 a.m. EDT, only a day later than was hoped for by Labor Minister Lisa Raitt. Although the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) disagreed with the back-to-work legislation, it advised members to obey the law.
Operations were expected to return to normalcy on Monday, June 4, as it takes time to ramp back up. The legislation sent all unresolved issues between the union and railway to binding arbitration. If both parties fail to settle upon a new contract within 90 days, an arbitrator will draw one up; not the optimal outcome.
Wreaking Havoc with an Already Fragile Economy
The embargo application that had been placed on shipments routed to and from CPR’s Canadian location was rescinded. As the second largest Canadian railroad, CPR transports large amounts of freight across the country as well as into the U.S., with much of the cargo making its way to Mexico and Asia. In fact, both U.S. and Japanese automakers had expressed deep concern about the thousands of cars that were stranded on CPR’s tracks. And with many of their products languishing in warehouses and silos throughout Canada, the railway’s customers also applied pressure for swift resolution to the strike.
According to a story posted on CBC News’ Web site, members of the commodities and mining industries, while thankful for service resumption, were still in doubt about the financial impact the strike had on their industries.
Rail, Integral to Canada’s Transportation System and Business Reputation
When commenting on Canada’s modest growth projections, the country’s Natural Resource Minister, Joe Oliver, had pointed out the “shock” the strike would have had on its economic recovery. Mirroring his sentiment, Raitt expressed concern about the impact on the country’s reputation as a solid business partner, and on the financial drag — some half-billion dollars a week — the strike could have on the economy.