Economy

Tensions rise as CN Rail strike enters 5th day, talks still underway

Tensions rise as CN Rail strike enters 5th day, talks still underway”

Industry and the premier of the Canadian province of Quebec have warned the strike was creating a shortage of propane, used to heat homes in some provinces and to fuel crop dryers for farmers.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault.

Should the strike still be happening by then it's likely the Liberals would have the support of the Conservatives to pass a bill forcing the striking CN Rail workers back on the job.

West Nipissing Mayor Joanne Savage said there is an increasing number of people who are switching to propane as a more economical heating source.

CN has not replied to the union's accusation.

Despite calls from federal and provincial leaders to recall Parliament early in light of the CN Rail strike, Government House Leader Pablo Rodriguez says the first day of the new Parliament will remain December 5.

Garneau spoke at federally-mediated contract talks in Montreal.

About Quebec's shortage, CN has indicated that it "will help where it can", he added. In the letter, the three Saskatchewan ministers said they wanted the federal government to "act as expediently as possible to end this potential labour disruption from occurring".

A strike lasting until December 5 could cost the economy up to $3.1 billion, and potentially up to $2.2 billion if it continues until the end of the month, TD economist Brian DePratto said in a note.

Premier Doug Ford of Ontario, Canada's most populous province, said he had discussed the strike with Trudeau at a meeting in Ottawa on Friday. Daily usage has been cut to 2.5 million litres from a typical six million litres.

In a statement, Quebec's Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources said its distribution partners were working to put trucks on the road to the Sarnia supply point - which is serviced entirely by CN rail lines. Starting on Tuesday, yard operators and conductors at the Canadian National Railway Co. walked away from their posts, immediately impacting shipments of multiple essential exports. About 10 per cent of Quebec's soybean harvest - covering roughly the same acreage and valued at $500 million - also remains in the field. Wet grain will rot in bins within days, jeopardizing sales.

"We're very concerned with the stoppage when it comes to the farmers", she said.

"What I'm saying is we can not afford a strike for many days", Legault said.

Similarly, Ontario lacks the necessary trucking capacity to absorb the demand for fuel should the strike carry on much longer, said David Carruth, chairman of the Ontario Trucking Association.

"While the current average salary of a Canadian conductor is $114,000 plus benefits, including a defined benefits pension plan, the union is seeking wage and benefit improvements beyond those negotiated this year with Unifor and another bargaining unit of the TCRC", CN said in a release.

"The difference in the equipment needed to haul propane versus what we use to haul dry goods is like the difference between a Ferrari and a Volkswagen", Carruth said.



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