Grain shippers could be dealing with another CN Rail strike within the next few days. The union representing 2700 CN conductors, yardmen and traffic coordinators says it is ready to take action within 72 hours notice.

    "A strike is inevitable if CN decides to go ahead and unilaterally modify the working conditions that impact the health and safety of our members," warns Bryan Boechler, spokeperson for the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, in a release issued earlier this week.

    The two sides are holding "last-chance meetings" but the union says a strike or lockout "could be inevitable." The workers have been without a contract since July 22nd.

    Any disruption to rail service is bad news for prairie farmers.

    "We could be just days away from having a lot of their freight shutdown, and that would be just devastating," says Richard Phillips, executive director of the Grain Growers of Canada. He notes it takes a long time to build a good relationship with foreign trading partners, but only a short time to lose a good relationship.

    "It's not just that you're out the money for demurrage at port, but it's that you have a customer out there and that customer has a mill back in their own country where they're expecting to receive shipment by a certain day. If you can't reliably supply that on time, then next time they go to tender they're going to look at Australia, Argentina, Brazil, the United States...they'll look at other markets," says Phillips.

    The Grain Growers and several other farm groups have sent letters to Labour Minister Lisa Raitt calling her to have back-to-work legislation ready to go if a strike or lockout occurs. Phillips says "an immediate and appropriate" dispute resolution process should also be in place.

    Locomotive engineers, also represented by the TCRC, went on strike last November. It lasted for four days as CN and the union came to an agreement after the federal government announced it was going to introduce back-to-work legislation.

~ Wednesday, September 29, 2010 ~