Canadian Pacific Railway and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference agreed to enter binding arbitration Monday, ending a strike that began when about 3,100 Canadian locomotive engineers and conductors walked off the job Sunday morning.
“This decision ensures both sides will get back to the table, and gets us back to moving Canada’s economy forward,” said E. Hunter Harrison, CEO of the railroad, whose U.S. headquarters are in Minneapolis. “While we would have preferred a negotiated settlement, this is the right thing to do at this time.”
During negotiations leading up to the strike, a key issue was union demands that the company follow agreements requiring certain rest periods in a “fatigue management system” for train crews after 10 hours of continuous work. The Teamsters also sought to resolve other disagreements about scheduling and what the union called “massive numbers of outstanding grievances.”
“We took this strike action to improve the quality of life and the working conditions for our membership,” TCRC President Doug Finnson said in a statement.
Train operations will begin Tuesday, the union said, “in a manner which will allow an organized start-up to operations” and ensure well-rested workers.
Canadian Pacific is Canada’s second-largest railroad after Canadian National Railway Co.
CP ships grain, oil, consumer goods and other commodities through Minnesota. But the company’s U.S. locomotive engineers and conductors were not part of the strike.
If the Canadian strike had continued, it would not have affected grain shipments from the state very much, said Bob Zelenka, executive director of the Minnesota Grain and Feed Association. Most of the corn, soybeans and wheat on CP rail moves between the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, he said, and do not cross the border into Canada.
A CP strike would also have no effect on coal needed to fuel Xcel Energy power plants in Minnesota. The utility contracts with BNSF Railway Co. and Union Pacific railroad for those shipments, a spokeswoman said.
Harder to gauge is how a strike would have affected rail shipments of Canadian oil to U.S. refineries, or imports of consumer goods from Asia that are unloaded in British Columbia and shipped by rail across Canada to destinations in Chicago and elsewhere.
The agreement to enter arbitration came under some pressure from the Canadian government, which was considering intervention. Parliament was expected to introduce a bill Monday to end the strike, but that idea was dropped once arbitration became the avenue forward.
The Canadian government used legislation to end a nine-day strike in 2012 that also involved CP and about 5,000 Canadian engineers, conductors and rail traffic controllers.