CN strikes can put additional strain on the supply chain


The longer the strike on the Canadian National Railway, the more difficult it becomes and the longer it takes to recover an already tense supply chain, said former railroad employees and industry consultants.

On June 18, about 750 CN signal and telecommunications workers, represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), went on strike.

In an open letter to IBEW employees on June 20, CN’s Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Rob Reilly said CN began negotiations with the union in October 2021, and the company said, “Union’s We met or exceeded all of our requirements. ” These include better schedules to ensure two consecutive days of leave, increased comprehensive expense allowances, and overtime procedures based on seniority.

The latest offer also includes a 10% increase in wages, improved health insurance, increased daily allowances and double mileage refunds on business trips over a three-year period.

“We are disappointed with the current situation, but we are still open to resolving open issues through consensus or binding arbitration. We sincerely hope that we can resolve them as soon as possible,” Riley wrote. increase.

In a press release“The company’s emergency response plan allows companies to maintain normal levels of safe rail operation throughout Canada and serve customers wherever they need it,” CN said.

Greg Gormick, a railroad problem consultant at On Track Strategies, believes that emergency response plans cannot last indefinitely.

“Of course, they have a non-union supervisor who fills out the ranks and files represented by the IBEW, but that can’t last forever, so expect them to resolve it. Over time, it will impact operations, “Gormic said in an interview.

“This can last for weeks. If so, problems will occur.”

In April, IBEW train control, signaling, and communications maintenance workers on the Toronto Terminal Railway went on strike. The work action, which began on April 20, ended on May 3, when the IBEW agreed to a binding arbitration. Gomic hopes that the union’s latest disputes will be resolved quickly.

In November 2019, more than 3,000 CN conductors and Yard Service employees, represented by Teamsters Canada, went on strike for eight days. The behavior of this work has caused difficulties for companies that depend on railroads. The railroad carries 300 million tonnes of freight. 20,000 miles network Every year.

Gomic said the impact of the 2019 strike echoed after the job action was over. The same thing will happen with this long strike.

“There was a blockade in early 2020, after which COVID was a hit. [With] Deprivation of all the physical assets and human resources of the railway, the railway is not as elastic as it used to be. It’s not easy for them to recover, “he said.

“There’s a traffic backlog, there’s something we’ve been waiting for, and we’re … our supply chain is in a terrible stress stage. [already]So the last thing you need is a major strike. “

Poor rail services in early 2022 caused complaints from the agricultural sector to the Canadian Department of Transportation. Mark Hemmes, President of Quorum Corporation in Edmonton, monitors rail delivery of Canadian agricultural products. He says the service bottleneck in his sector has been resolved so far.

“The bottom line is that this labor turmoil doesn’t have a big impact on anything, so we’re in pretty good shape. If this happened in the middle of winter, I have a completely different way of thinking. Let’s do it, “Hems said in an interview.

“They’re okay as long as they keep up with what the demand is. So far, everything is so soft that strikes don’t have much of an impact.”

Nelson Wiseman, an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Toronto, states that railroad strikes have been a major economic, labor and political issue for decades, but don’t expect this to be ranked at that level. Hmm.

“Now that negotiations have failed, we hope the federal government will appoint a mediator, but the strike may continue for some time before the government considers intervening in legislation,” he said. “For a period of time, normal operations are stagnant or safety issues arise, and the government will act faster.”

According to Gomic, railroads already have problems recruiting this generation into the workforce, so improving compensation and working conditions for workers and other employees on strike could be mutually beneficial. ..

“If you have signal problems, big cross circuit problems, they call you late at night and in all weather to do this kind of thing, so that’s a tough job,” he said. Told.

“For operational crews, it’s almost impossible to guarantee what looks like a normal working life. Friends who are still there … now complain about the almost complete unpredictability of it. It’s not easy to hire someone to work on the railroad because it’s hard to make a living. “

Lee Harding


Lee Harding is a Saskatchewan-based journalist and think tank researcher and contributor to The Epoch Times.