Two unions representing about 3,400 workers at Canadian Pacific Railway have formally served the company with notice of their intent to strike.
Without a negotiated settlement, engineers, conductors, and signal and communications workers will walk out at 12:01 a.m. Saturday morning.
The notice comes at a difficult time for the railway, which is under pressure from shippers to move backed-up grain shipments and supply more locomotives to the pipeline-constrained oil industry in Western Canada.
Alberta Wheat Council Chairman Kevin Bender said the backlog has been building since the middle of last year.
“Even last fall, prior to winter, one of the two railways was only at about 60 per cent of their orders fulfilled and then as the winter went on that got worse and I think got to a low of 17 per cent for the one railway,” he explained.
He said it’s disappointing to hear about the potential job action.
“The fact that many farmers in the prairies are captive to only one railway, if they end up being on that one CP rail and they decide to strike, their grain doesn’t move and they don’t get paid,” explained Bender.
That could be devastating with planting season on the way because a lot of those costs need to be paid up front, including land payments, fertilizer and other crop inputs.
“My guess is that farmers would need to refinance, I just don’t even want to go there,” he said.
Bender said the government needs to take immediate action to make sure a strike doesn’t happen.
He’d also like to see long term legislation to make the railway an essential service.