The Canadian government will force striking workers at Canadian Pacific Railway back to work with fast-track legislation to end the strike, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said May 28.
“We’re proposing legislation today to protect our recovering economy and resume rail services,” Raitt told the House of Commons a day after the latest round of talks broke down. “Simply put … the strike can’t go on. We need to get the trains running again.”
Some 4,800 locomotive engineers, conductors and rail traffic controllers at Canada’s second-biggest railway have been on strike since May 23 over pension issues, shutting down CP Rail freight operations across Canada.
The government fears the strike could hurt an economy still recovering from recession and Raitt has said a strike would cost $540 million in economic activity each week.
“It is very clear that the government of Canada must act now to resume rail service at CP Rail, as the prospect of ratified agreements in the short term is highly unlikely,” she said.
An accelerated back-to-work bill was expected to become law this week.
The majority Conservative government previously used legislation to end strikes at Air Canada and at the Canada Post mail service, prompting criticism from the New Democrats, the left-leaning opposition party.
“If employers know they can count on the government to intervene on their side to put an end to collective bargaining, then there is less need for them to have good faith negotiations at the bargaining table,” said NDP Finance Critic Peggy Nash.
The union, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, said the two sides could likely reach a deal if CP backed down on its pension plan demands.
“They don’t want to do that because they want to take the money from our pension plan and they want to give it to the shareholders,” Teamsters chief negotiator Doug Finnson told reporters in Ottawa.