Canadian Pacific work stoppage could affect US agriculture

DETROIT (AP) — The Canadian Teamsters and CP Rail blamed each other for a Sunday work stoppage that halted trains across Canada and halted fertilizer and other shipments to and from the United States.

More than 3,000 Canadian Pacific Railway conductors, engineers, train and yard workers represented by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference are off work after the two sides failed to reach an agreement by midnight.

Both sides say they are still talking with federal mediators.

Canadian Pacific covers much of the US Midwest and is a major shipper of potash and agricultural fertilizers. It also transports grain from the United States to its northern neighbor for domestic use and exports. The railroad serves the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and other states, according to a map on its investor website. CP also operates in New England and upstate New York, spokesman Patrick Waldron said.

CP claims to be the primary carrier of potash, a plant nutrient used in the production of several crops. The company claims in investor documents that it transports 70% of the potash produced in North America, all of which comes from mines in Saskatchewan.

The railroad says it also transports fertilizers, including phosphate, urea, ammonium sulfate, ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia. About half of its fertilizer shipments come from Alberta processing plants.

CP earned 29% of its freight revenue in 2020 from cross-border shipments between the United States and Canada, its investor website said.

A long hiatus in fertilizer shipments could hurt U.S. farmers, who are approaching the spring planting season. The work stoppage could also exacerbate existing supply chain bottlenecks in the United States and Canada that stem from the COVID-19 pandemic.

American trains were not affected by the work stoppage, but the railroad cannot make shipments between the two countries, Waldron said.

On Saturday, the Teamsters said in a statement that the company had locked out the workers, but later released another statement saying the workers were also on strike.

The original statement posted on the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference website late Saturday said the union wanted to continue negotiations, but the company “chose to put the Canadian supply chain and tens of thousands of workers at risk.” ‘jobs’.

“As Canadians grapple with an unending pandemic, exploding commodity prices and war in Ukraine, the rail carrier adds an unnecessary layer of insecurity, especially for those dependent on the rail network,” says the press release.

CP Rail, Canada’s second-largest rail operator, said it was the company that wanted to keep talking and the union that pulled its employees out of work.

CP President Keith Creel said in a press release that the union “did not respond” to a new offer presented by mediators by the midnight deadline.

“Instead, the CFTC chose to withdraw its services before the deadline for a strike or lockout could legally occur,” he said. “The CFTC is well aware of the damage this reckless action will cause to the Canadian supply chain.”

Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan has urged both sides to continue negotiations.

Canadian and American supply chains were also hit by protests from trucking convoys blocking border crossings in February, and are now dealing with the effects, particularly on global fuel supplies, of the Russian invasion in Ukraine and sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.

All the disruptions have pushed inflation to its highest level since the early 1980s, with basic necessities such as food and fuel facing some of the steepest price increases.

CP and the union have been negotiating since September, with wages and pensions a sticking point. A clause on where employees take their federally mandated break periods is also an issue.

According to CP Rail, this is the fifth work stoppage since 1993.


The Canadian Press and Associated Press Business Writer Tom Krisher contributed to this story.