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Liberals, opposition debate CP Rail stoppage but avoid discussing back-to-work legislation


While the CP Rail work stoppage has companies calling for back-to-work legislation, the Liberal authorities and opposition MPs prevented discussing the concept as they debated subsequent steps within the House of Commons Monday. 

In query interval, Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu mentioned the agriculture and automotive sectors are being affected by the work stoppage already.

“What is the government’s plan to immediately resolve this dispute?” she requested Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan.

O’Regan acknowledged that the work stoppage is occurring at a foul time, given the provide chain woes already affecting the Canadian financial system. He mentioned the continuing negotiations are the most suitable choice to convey the dispute to an finish. 

“Every day that goes by, for farmers and manufacturers in this country particularly, is an hour or a day too long and I think that the parties at the table know that,” O’Regan mentioned within the House.

“They have an enormous responsibility to Canadians to negotiate an agreement that protects supply chains that Canadians depend on. They are working hard. No one has left the table. Our party believes that the best deals are reached at the table.” 

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh advised reporters in Ottawa on Monday that using back-to-work legislation in a “cavalier” manner would undermine the precise of staff to make use of the flexibility to strike to enhance working situations.

“The fact that it’s already something that’s being raised before workers have a chance to negotiate sends a message to employers that they don’t have to negotiate,” Singh mentioned. “And that’s wrong.”

Locking out workers

CP Rail shut down Canadian operations Sunday after a piece stoppage started simply earlier than midnight. More than 3,000 conductors, engineers, practice and yard staff have been picketing Sunday.

The firm and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, the union representing the employees, began negotiating a brand new contract final September. The union mentioned the primary points are wages, pensions and facets of working situations — akin to not forcing workers to take federally mandated reset days once they’re away from dwelling.

Employees voted 97 per cent in favour of a strike March 3 and have been in a authorized strike place as of March 16 — the identical day the corporate issued an ultimatum stating {that a} deal be must be reached by March 20 at midnight to forestall a lockout.

Federal mediators joined the talks March 11. Just earlier than midnight Sunday, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference mentioned in a media assertion that the corporate was locking workers out.

Rail staff picket in Regina on March 19, 2022 (CBC / Radio-Canada)

The firm and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference blamed one another for inflicting the work stoppage, although each additionally mentioned they have been nonetheless speaking with federal mediators.

Several business teams have raised the alarm concerning the potential financial impacts of a CP Rail shutdown at a time when many companies are coping with provide chain difficulties attributable to the pandemic, excessive climate in B.C. and the latest blockades of border crossings by protesters. That’s placing O’Regan underneath heavy strain to legislate CP Rail staff again to work.

“We’re asking for all parties to find a very, very quick resolution,” mentioned Brian Kingston, president and chief government of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association.

“We appreciate the fact that they’re back at the table today … That said, if it becomes evident that there is simply no negotiated outcome possible, we would encourage the government to look at other options.”

Concerns about fertilizer shipments

Canada’s agriculture business is especially apprehensive. On Monday, leaders of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and the National Cattle Feeders’ Association have been in Ottawa urging the federal government to convey an finish to the work stoppage they mentioned might devastate their business.

“If these trains don’t run, we’ve got maybe two weeks of feed left,” mentioned Cattlemen’s Association president Bob Lowe. He mentioned western Canadian cattle producers have been relying on shipments of feed by rail from the U.S. this yr within the wake of final summer season’s drought and resultant widespread feed scarcity.

“There is no Plan B. We have no other source of feed.”

“We are, in Canada, about four to six weeks from seeding season … which means that farmers may not get all the fertilizer they need,” mentioned Fertilizer Canada chief government Karen Proud.

Proud mentioned a fertilizer scarcity might trigger meals costs to spike, given the influence the battle in Ukraine has had already on international fertilizer provides and the costs of wheat and different grains.

Canadian fertilizer corporations like Nutrien depend on rail to get their product to market. Fertilizer Canada chief government Karen Proud says the business needs to see back-to-work legislation. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Proud mentioned the fertilizer business believes it is time to introduce back-to-work legislation.

“We certainly respect the collective bargaining process but clearly these two groups haven’t been able to reach an agreement. And now the government needs to act immediately,” she mentioned. 

“Some of our members who produce fertilizer don’t have the storage capacity if product isn’t being shipped out on the rails, so we’re looking at being days away from potentially having to shut down our production of fertilizer.” 

Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, mentioned U.S. lawmakers and counterparts — together with White House officers — have been apprehensive for weeks a few attainable labour dispute.

“I expect to hear a lot about it,” Hyder mentioned, ten days after an earlier go to to Capitol Hill throughout which he heard related issues.

“There’s a genuine risk here of Canada being seen as unreliable at a time when reliability is most valued and needed.”

The injury to Canada’s status could possibly be lasting, coming because it does on the heels of final month’s week-long shutdown of the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ont., he added.

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