The Restoring Rail Service Act, legislation that would force the end of a work stoppage by labor and mandate the resumption of rail services at the Canadian Pacific Railway has been passed by the House of Commons.
The legislation now goes on to be debated by the Senate. If passed and enacted, the law would not only resume Canadian Pacific Railway services, but also send all unresolved issues to binding arbitration.
It’s expected that the Senate will approve the Act by June 1 and that the law could go into effect immediately.
The strike, which began May 23 and has suspended freight service across the country, was launched by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference in response to an inability to reach a deal with railway management on a new contract.
The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference represents bargaining units of nearly 5,000 workers – 4,200 locomotive engineers, conductors, trainspersons and yardmen, as well as 220 rail traffic controllers. The collective agreements for both units expired at the end of 2011.
Among the issues the union and management are still struggling with during contract talks are pensions and fatigue management, according to negotiators.
In remarks to the media, Canadian labor minister Lisa Raitt said that the strike has to be halted because it’s putting the jobs of thousands of other, non-union workers at risk.
“The work stoppage at the Canadian Pacific Railway is affecting industries that contribute $540 million weekly to the Canadian economy through their use of the railway,” Raitt said in explaining why the legislation was being pushed through.
The labor unrest comes at a very inopportune time for Canadian Pacific, which just appointed an interim CEO about a week before the strike was launched, and also elected a new 16-member board of directors.
Former CEO Fred Green resigned from CP Rail May 17 after a four-month battle over control of the direction of the company with activist investor Bill Ackman.