Canadian Pacific's Unions Say a Strike Is Still `Inevitable'

(Bloomberg) -- After agreeing at the last minute to stave off a strike, unions at Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. are urging their members to reject the company’s offer and say it’s only a matter of time before they walk off the job.

“CP succeeded in delaying the inevitable," Doug Finnson, president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, which represents about 3,000 train conductors and engineers, said in a statement on Saturday. "The government will bring this ridiculous offer to our members and we strongly recommend that members vote against it.”

Teamsters Canada and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents about 360 signal maintainers, agreed late Friday to a recommendation from federal mediators that the Canadian Industrial Relations Board administer a ratification vote. While that averted a potential walkout starting at midnight, it didn’t portend labor peace, with both unions saying Saturday they recommend members reject the company offers.

The groups won’t release details of the offer until workers have a chance to review it, but say it doesn’t satisfy workers’ concerns around fatigue and wages. More than 8,000 grievances have been filed against CP by Teamster members, and close to 300 by IBEW members, in the last three years. Earlier this month, members of the Teamsters and IBEW voted 94 percent and 98 percent in favor of a strike, the unions said.

‘Tremendous News’

Late Friday, CP’s Chief Executive Officer Keith Creel hailed the fact that a strike had been avoided. “This is tremendous news for our employees, our customers and the Canadian economy,” he said in a statement.

Canada’s labor minister said she would ask the Canadian Industrial Relations Board to administer a ratification vote on each of the company’s final offers to the two unions.

“We very much believe in collecting bargaining,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Halifax on Saturday, when asked about the dispute. “Everything we’ve done over the past two years has been focused on encouraging parties to work it through in a constructive way. We’re going to continue doing that."

‘Bad Deal’

Canadian Pacific said it will immediately execute a safe and structured startup of its operations that will avoid any rail disruption. A spokesman for the railway declined to comment on the unions’ stance on Saturday.

Creel said on April 18 that Canadian Pacific had contingency plans in the event of a walkout. He also vowed not to sacrifice long-term profitability just to get a “bad deal” in place.

The vote of the unions, which will be conducted by the Canada Industrial Relations Boards, has yet to be scheduled.

“The fact that CP thinks their offer has a chance in hell of being ratified shows how out of touch they are with their employees,” Steve Martin, senior general chairman from IBEW System Council No. 11, said in the statement. “The company is in for a wake-up call.”

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