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Canadian Pacific on track for strike
Published: May 12, 2007
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CPR CEO says it won't bow to union pressure as Teamster says talks are done

Canadian Pacific appears closer to a strike by its maintenance workers, with the company's CEO saying yesterday the railway won't bow to union pressure and a senior Teamster official saying talks have ended.

"At this point, it does not seem that we're getting back to the table again," union leader William Brehl said yesterday.

Brehl, who is the Ottawa-based president of Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, Maintenance of Way Employees Division, said he was calling a meeting of the union's board later yesterday to decide what action to take.

Canadian Pacific's track maintenance and expansion employees have been without a contract since September 2006. The union is in position to begin a legal strike with 72 hours notice.

CP Rail says it will deploy 1,200 trained managers to take over maintenance duties should a strike be called.

"We really hope that won't happen, but in situations like this, you have to keep the railway running, and we will," CP Rail president Fred Green said yesterday at the company's annual meeting in Calgary.

At issue are changes in health premium payments, wage increases and quality of life concerns.

"While this is unfortunate, we will not meet the demands of this union leader, which is a substantial premium to other agreements that we have signed after fair negotiations," Green told shareholders.

"There must be work rule changes or some other vehicle offered to help to fund anything over and above the package," Green said.

The Teamsters' Maintenance of Way Employees Division members are responsible for track maintenance and expansion.

They are seeking a wage hike of 4% over four years, and CP Rail has offered 3%, in line with other union packages.

While negotiations with a federal mediator have taken place in Vancouver, talks fell apart last week.

Montreal-based Canadian National Railways suffered a two-week strike in February when conductors and yard workers walked off the job, disrupting shipments of commodities such as grain, coal and auto parts.

The February strike interrupted shipments and created backlogs of inventory which companies said would take months to make up.

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