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Freight shippers and some rail passengers are bracing for a possible work stoppage on CP’s network Tuesday night as contract talks continue between Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. and two unions representing train crews and signal workers.

The unions representing 3,360 CP employees said on the weekend that they are prepared to go on strike at 10 p.m. ET on May 29 if they cannot come to an agreement after members overwhelmingly rejected the company’s 3-year offer.

Read more: CP Rail unions reject company’s contract offers

“CP has continually changed directions during negotiations with little evidence that a settlement was ever possible,” said Steve Martin, senior general chairman of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents 360 track signal repairers. “We have given CP every reasonable opportunity to negotiate and avoid a strike, but sadly that has led us nowhere.”

“Neither side has walked away,” Christopher Monette, a spokesman for Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, which represents 3,000 locomotive engineers and conductors, said of the talks in Calgary on Sunday afternoon.

CP said on Saturday that it is working with customers and preparing to wind down its operations, even as it continues to bargain for agreements “that are in the best interests of the entire CP family, its customers, shareholders and the broader North American economy.”

The company has offered a 3-year deal with 2-per-cent yearly raises and increases to some benefits. The unions say the company has failed to address worker fatigue, nor what they call a culture of bullying employees.

Most goods are carried by freight trains, including retail products such as bulk commodities like grain and iron ore, and auto parts. The buyers and sellers of these goods say they have few alternatives to trains, given the size of their shipments, and that CP’s bigger rival, Canadian National Railway Co., does not have the capacity or network to step in.

“It can take months to recover from a stoppage, even a short stoppage,” said Robert Lewis-Manning, president of the Chamber of Shipping, which represents the West Coast marine industry. “While many ship owners use both rail services, there would not be sufficient capacity to endure even a short stoppage of rail service by one service provider.”

Ship owners that call on B.C.’s ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert are planning to switch to U.S. ports and altering their schedules in the case of a strike. Bulk ships, which carry goods that can be stored longer than food or scheduled manufacturing components, will delay arriving at port for as long as possible.

“We are preparing for an increased number of vessels at anchor, but that capacity is limited,” Mr. Lewis-Manning said.

Bob Ballantyne, head of the Freight Management Association of Canada, which represents food makers, retailers, miners and other rail shippers, said he wants the government to legislate an end to any strike. Bulk commodity producers, which are generally tied geographically to a certain railway, will continue to produce and stockpile during a work stoppage until they run out of storage space, he said.

“For the most part, they are captive [to CP] and even if they weren’t, CN and the trucking industry wouldn’t have the capacity to handle the CP traffic.”

The commuter rail services serving Vancouver, Greater Toronto and Montreal will also be affected by a CP work stoppage. The services lease route portions from CP and rely on the signal workers for safe operations.

“If there is a labour disruption, there will be fewer CP staff members available to address any signal or switch issues, meaning potentially longer delays for train customers in Hamilton, and along the Milton and Barrie lines,” said Anne Marie Aikins, a spokeswoman for Metrolinx, which operates Ontario’s GO Transit.

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