Update: CP Rail workers hit the bricks at Deltaport
An information picket set up by striking CP Rail workers near Deltaport Wednesday (May 23) did not disrupt other train traffic to and from the facility.
That was okay with the small group of employees—locomotive engineers and conductors—who were content to get their message out about why they, and their fellow workers across the country, were off the job.
But the long-term fallout of the job action is a concern for those operators moving container cargo and coal.
At the top of the striking workers' list of concerns is what they say is the company's move to reduce pension income by as much as 40 per cent.
It's especially significant to long-time employees such as Marvin Hultman, a locomotive engineer who has spent the past 31 years with the rail line.
"The main thing is the pension," Hultman said. "We could be looking at pension rollbacks up to 40 per cent from what I understand."
"The pension is something we work for to carry us through in our later years," said Andrew Vandenberg who is a conductor on freight trains and has been with CP Rail for 28 years. "We work for the wage and look forward to the pension for quality of life at the end of it all. And the union has worked long and hard to see that the workers' rights are upheld and that we get a good pension.
"Now, the company wants to claw that back and take it away from us. And that's just not right."
Vandenberg added this is the second time in his career he has been involved with job action—the other time he and his colleagues were legislated back to work before they had a chance to walk the picket line.
"This is actually the first time I have been on a strike," he said, adding he hopes the union and CP Rail can come to a solution and get things back on the rails. "We are all working men here, and that's what we want to do."
Federal Labour MInister Lisa Raitt said in Ottawa that the government is prepared to introduce back-to-work legislation if the two sides cannot reach a deal, aware that a prolonged work stoppage could cost the national economy an estimated $540 million a week.
Daryll Rasmussen, a locomotive engineer who has been with CP Rail for 33 years said corporate greed is to blame for the work action.
"We pay into a pension at a certain level for all these years and they are trying to roll it back, and it's just wrong."
As they sat under sunny skies in fold-up chairs and displayed strike signs fixed to their vehicles by the side of the road along the western end of 27B Ave.—a distance from the rail tracks, but across the asphalt from CP Rail's area office—the striking rail workers didn't think that on Wednesday their demonstration had impacted traffic at Deltaport.
"I don't think we're really stopping anything here today," Hultman said. "We've set up our picket, mostly for information purposes. A couple of people have stopped and asked. But it's just us who is not working."
Denis Horgan, Vice President and General Manager at Westshore Terminals, which handles coal at the Roberts Bank facility, said the only difference in operations Wednesday was that CP trains were not being unloaded.
CP Rail traffic accounts for just over half of Westshore Terminal's traffic.
During an average day two to three CP trains would unload about 40,000 tons of coal at the terminal. On Wednesday Westshore was just dealing with coal traffic from BNSF Railway and CN Rail.
At TSI Inc. (Terminal Systems Inc.), which handles cargo containers the situation was more serious, said spokesperson Lori Janson.
The concern with a prolonged strike for TSI is not focused on the immediate impact of some delayed shipments, but what the job action may do to the facility's global reputation.
"We are very concerned on the impact on our customers and our reputation as an efficient and reliable gateway. The greater concern also is if this continues, there will be significant impact as we move into a recovery phase," said the director of corporate communications, adding it will likely take many days for the facility to get back up to speed once the job action has been resolved.
Janson there are contingency plans in place to deal with the situation if the strike stretches on.
"We are working with the options of CN (Rail) and trucking, and doing our best to keep the terminal fluid," she said. "CP (Rail) cargo will sit on the dock."
Currently, 65 per cent of the container traffic through Deltaport is moved by rail.
"Everyone is concerned about this and monitoring the federal government's response, of course hoping both sides will come to an agreement as quickly as possible."