DETROIT (AP) – Canadian Teamsters and CP Rail blamed each other for a work stoppage on Sunday that brought trains to a standstill across Canada and disrupted fertilizer and other supplies to and from the United States
More than 3,000 conductors, engineers, train and dock workers from Canadian Pacific Rail, represented by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, are out of work after both sides failed to reach an agreement by midnight.
According to their own statements, both sides are still talking to federal mediators.
Covering much of the US Midwest, Canadian Pacific is a major shipper of potash and agricultural fertilizers. It also transports grain from the US to its northern neighbor for domestic consumption and export. The railroad serves the states of Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and other states, according to a map on its investor website. CP also operates in New England and upstate New York, spokesman Patrick Waldron said.
CP says it is the premier carrier of potash, a plant nutrient used in the production of several crops. The company states in investor documents that it ships 70% of the potash produced in North America, all from mines in Saskatchewan.
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The railroad says it also transports fertilizers, including phosphate, urea, ammonium sulfate, ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia. About half of its fertilizer shipments come from processing plants in Alberta.
CP generated 29% of its 2020 freight revenue from cross-border shipments between the U.S. and Canada, according to the investors’ website.
A prolonged disruption in fertilizer supplies could hurt U.S. farmers as they approach the spring planting season. The work stoppage could also exacerbate existing supply chain shortages in the US and Canada stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. trains are unaffected by the work stoppage, but the railroad cannot service transportation between the two nations, Waldron said.
On Saturday, the Teamsters said in a statement that the company had locked out workers, but later issued another statement saying workers were also on strike.
The original statement, posted to the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference website late Saturday, said the union wanted to continue negotiations, but the company “decided to put Canada’s supply chain and tens of thousands of jobs at risk.”
“As Canadians grapple with a never-ending pandemic, skyrocketing commodity prices and the war in Ukraine, the railroad adds an unnecessary layer of uncertainty, particularly for those who rely on the rail network,” the statement said .
CP Rail, Canada’s second-largest rail operator, said it was the company wanting to keep talking and the union pulling its workers off the job.
CP President Keith Creel said in a press release that the union “did not respond” to a new bid submitted by brokers before the midnight deadline.
“Instead, the TCRC chose to withdraw its services before the deadline for a strike or lockout could legally take place,” he said. “The TCRC recognizes the damage this reckless action will inflict on the Canadian supply chain.”
Labor Secretary Seamus O’Regan urged the two sides to continue negotiations.
Canadian and US supply chains were also hit by trucker convoy protests blocking border crossings in February and are now grappling with the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and sanctions imposed by the US and its allies, particularly on the global fuel supply.
All the disruptions drove inflation to its highest level since the early 1980s, with essentials like food and fuel seeing some of the sharpest rises in price.
CP and the union have been negotiating since September, with wages and pensions a sticking point. A clause about where employees take their break times prescribed by the federal government is also an issue.
According to CP Rail, this is the fifth walkout since 1993.
Canadian Press and Associated Press business journalist Tom Krisher contributed to this story.
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