CPKC to resume contract negotiations with Canadian rail workers union

A CP Rail locomotive backs into position at the company's Toronto Yard in Scarborough

(Reuters) -Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) said on Thursday its leadership, with the assistance of federal mediators, will resume contract negotiations with the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) union on May 17.

CPKC and the union will meet in an effort to achieve a new collective agreement for the company's train and engine and rail traffic controller employees.

Canada heavily relies on its extensive railway network, given its expansive geography and significant exports such as grain, potash and coal.

Earlier this month, workers represented by the Teamsters union had voted overwhelmingly to strike as early as May 22.

The Canadian Industrial Relations Board has requested submissions from the railroad operator, the union and other interested stakeholders by May 21. The parties have until May 31 to file their replies.

Federal Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan previously said he had requested the Canada Industrial Relations Board to assess whether the strike could pose safety implications. The strike cannot commence until the board has rendered a decision.

CPKC made a voluntary offer on Wednesday to engage in a binding arbitration to prevent a work stoppage, but the union declined, the railroad operator said in a statement on Thursday.

The company said it has also proposed to TCRC that both parties agree on the services that should be maintained in the event of a strike or lockout.

A work stoppage could be a major dent to Canada's supply chain and negatively impact major exports, including wheat and canola.

Separately on Thursday, the union received a new offer from CPKC's peer Canadian National Railway that would include wage increases of 3% in 2024 and 2.5% in 2025 amid other benefits for its workers.

However, the union, in a statement sent to Reuters, criticized the offer saying it is contingent on "accepting concessions that would undermine rail safety."

"(Canadian National) seeks to force trains crews to work even longer hours, beyond certain 10-hour limits under our collective agreement," said the union.

The union added that the offer is also dependent on union members relocating to remote areas across the country, which may keep them away from their families for three months at a time.

(Reporting by Shivansh Tiwary and Ananta Agarwal in Bengaluru; Editing by Shilpi Majumdar and Shailesh Kuber)