Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. met on Friday with two unions representing more than 3,300 train operators and signal workers after the employees overwhelmingly voted against three-year contract offers.
The results of the ballot released on Friday mean a work stoppage – a strike or company lockout – could take place with 72 hours’ notice by any of the three parties.
All sides said they planned to meet, and the unions said they hoped to resume mediated talks to reach new collective agreements.
Members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers voted 97 per cent against the offer, which included raises of 2 per cent. More than 98.1 per cent of the 2,472 ballots cast by train crews represented by Teamsters Canada Rail Conference opposed the contract, which the Calgary-based CP called its “final offer.”
“It was a resounding no,” Doug Finnson, president of the Teamsters, said by phone.
“Should talks fail or CP not wish to bargain, workers will have no choice but to exercise their legal strike rights,” the Teamsters said in a press release.
“[A] 72-hour notice to strike could be issued at any time,” the IBEW said in a statement.
A strike or lockout would halt freight traffic and passenger service on commuter rails in Vancouver, Greater Toronto and Montreal, on which the IBEW members maintain track signals.
In a statement, CP said it is meeting with the unions to discuss “next steps. It said it had received no strike notice.
“CP is disappointed with the outcome of the vote given that both final offers provided for significant improvements to wages, benefits and working conditions that are consistent with agreements recently reached with other CP unions in both the United States and Canada,” the statement said.
The Teamsters and IBEW had urged members to reject the offers. The unions said the pay increase was too low, and the offers did not address fatigue issues nor the soured labour relations.
CP offered $1,000 to every Teamster who dropped their outstanding grievance in an effort to clear the backlog of labour complaints. The union said members would be entitled to more money if their complaint was upheld by an arbitrator.
The electronic ballot was run by the Canada Industrial Relations Board at the request of Employment Minister Patty Hajdu, who intervened in mediated talks shortly before a strike deadline in April.
“I urge all parties to continue their hard work to reach a fair deal that avoids any disruption in service,” Ms. Hajdu said. “Our government believes in the collective bargaining process and I remain hopeful that the parties will be able to negotiate new collective agreements.”
The Teamsters train crews have gone on strike at CP twice since 2012.
Meanwhile, 1,800 locomotive engineers represented by the Teamsters this week ratified a five-year contract with CP rival Canadian National Railway Co.