Saskatchewan Examiner

Friday, February 23, 2024

CP Rail’s Teamsters union arbitration is a ‘sigh of relief’ for Saskatchewan farmers

CP Rail's Teamsters union arbitration is a "sigh of relief" for Sask farmers.

Key Takeaways:

  • A Canadian Pacific Railway (CP Rail) disruption, according to the chair of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers, could not have come at a worse time.
  • The federal labour minister, Seamus O’Regan, had promised to remain in Calgary until the parties reached an agreement.
  • Nutrien, the world’s largest fertiliser producer based in Saskatoon, was pleased to hear that CP employees returned to work.

As per the Western Canadian Wheat Growers chair, a Canadian Pacific Railway (CP Rail) disruption could not have come at a worse time.

Daryl Fransoo, a farmer near Glaslyn, Sask., said he’s relieved the rail workers’ strike has ended, given the economy’s impact from the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine involves two countries that supply 30% of the world’s wheat.

“There’s a real chance that global food supplies are jeopardized, so any disruption has far-reaching consequences,” Fransoo said.

CP Rail employees, including 3,000 conductors, engineers, train, and yard workers, returned to work on Tuesday after the company reached an agreement with the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference on binding arbitration.

Seamus O’Regan, the federal labor minister, had promised to stay in Calgary until the parties reached an agreement.

Also read: Saskatchewan has the highest COVID-19 death rate in the region

“We’re usually sceptical of the Liberal government in Western Canada,” Fransoo said, “but Minister O’Regan was on the ground, doing the work, and he got the job done this time.”

The rail outage almost jeopardized Saskatchewan farmers’ ability to profit from high commodity prices, such as wheat. According to Maidstone, Saskatchewan, farmer Scott Owens, higher values have cushioned the economic blow of a drought-plagued 2021.

“This year’s crop in Saskatchewan was smaller, but there’s still a significant amount that needs to get out to the west coast,” Owens, the vice-president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, said.

The news of CP employees returning to work was also welcomed by Nutrien, the world’s largest fertilizer producer based in Saskatoon.

Due to uncertainty about supply from Eastern Europe, a Nutrien spokesperson told Global News that a rail service disruption would have “jeopardized” the company’s plan to increase potash production by one million tonnes in 2022.

CP Rail's Teamsters union arbitration is a "sigh of relief" for Sask farmers.
CP Rail’s Teamsters union arbitration is a “sigh of relief” for Sask farmers. Image from CBC News

After Canada, Russia and Belarus are the second and third largest potash producers, respectively. In 2020, potash accounted for nearly 20% of Saskatchewan’s exports.

According to Pam Schwann, president of the Saskatchewan Mining Association, Saskatchewan mines would typically only be able to store potash for a few days onsite before having to halt production and lay off workers.

After CP Rail and its union agreed to arbitration, there have been no layoffs, and production continues as usual.

“It’s a huge sigh of relief for our industry,” Schwann said, “because one day down is too many.”

According to Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, the end of the work stoppage is also a “great relief,” according to Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe.

“In the government of Saskatchewan, we’re very grateful to both entities for persevering at the bargaining table,” Moe said. “That’s where the best agreements can be reached in the end.”

Moe said he still wants rail work to be considered an essential service so that future labor disputes don’t cause trains to stop running.

Source: Global News

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