Canadian Pacific Railway will be online Friday following quick passage of a back-to-work law Thursday through Canada’s Senate and governor general’s office.
The Senate, during a five-hour meeting Thursday afternoon, fast-tracked the Conservative government’s Bill C-39 through second reading, committee stage and third reading.
The Conservatives’ Senate majority allowed the bill to pass third reading by a 47-27 vote, followed by royal assent from Gov. Gen. David Johnston later that afternoon.
The bill’s text calls for it to take effect 12 hours after its full passage and assent, which would end the 10-day strike by CP engineers and conductors and put them back on the rails Friday.
C-39 requires the resumption of freight rail services at CP and sends all unresolved issues from the stalled talks between CP and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) to "interest-based" binding arbitration.
The bill also requires federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt to immediately appoint an arbitrator, who will have 90 days to report back to Raitt with a settlement.
Outstanding issues for the 4,800 affected employees, according to the TCRC, include work rules and scheduling, "fatigue management" and pension contributions.
"The drastic cut in pensions angered our members," TCRC vice-president and negotiator Doug Finnson said in a release Thursday afternoon. "A pension plan is a deferred salary, not just money the company can distribute to its shareholders and managers without being accountable to anyone."
Talks between the union and management halted Monday when C-39 was introduced. The bill also temporarily extends the terms of the workers’ previous collective agreement, which expired at the end of 2011.
The company "has made multiple reasonable and good faith offers to the Teamsters on various items such as pensions, health spending accounts, a 48-hour rest provision and other fatigue management counter measures that add to and complement many existing regulatory and negotiated provisions," Peter Edwards, CP’s vice-president of human resources, said in a release Tuesday.
"These and other work rule proposals offered by the company exceed those that the Teamsters have in place with other North American railways."
The TCRC said it "disagree(s) with the back-to-work legislation forcing some 4,800 Canadian Pacific (CP) workers to report for work (Friday). Still, the union is advising members to obey the law."
The resumption of CP service "is a big worry off everyone’s mind because this is a crucial time for farmers across Canada," Grain Growers of Canada president Stephen Vandervalk said in a release Wednesday, after C-39 passed the House of Commons.
"Many farmers are just finishing seeding and now in the midst of hauling last year’s crop that will help to pay our fertilizer and chemical bills."
"It’s never a convenient time for a strike, but this was the worst possible timing," Alberta Barley Commission chairman Matt Sawyer said in a separate release. "Farmers are sitting on grain orders that need to be filled and time is short to get them delivered before Aug. 1."
"Both union and management at CP forget that it is farmers’ money that helps pay their wages and yet it is farmers that suffer financially when they can’t negotiate settlements in good faith," GGC executive director Richard Phillips said.
"While we are pleased to see trains running again tomorrow, we also want to remind all politicians of the pressing need for rail service review legislation."
Manitoba’s general farm group, Keystone Agricultural Producers, agreed Wednesday it wants the federal government "not to view this strike as an isolated incident, but instead to take it in a larger context — and to begin immediately implementing the recommendations of the Rail Freight Service Review that were made in March of 2011."
"It is clear that all of these issues are symptoms of larger problems that will persist until there is true competition in the (Canadian rail) industry, or until the government steps up and forces the railways to respect the needs of their customers — and in this case, of CP employees, as well," KAP president Doug Chorney said.