New approach to rail strikes needed
(Calgary, Alberta) November 26, 2019 – The Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions today expressed relief that a tentative agreement has been reached to end the strike by members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) at CN Rail but believe the strike underlines the need for a new approach to dealing with strikes affecting grain movement.
Unfortunately, significant damage has already been done to farmers as a result of the work stoppage. While the commissions appreciate the efforts of CN and its 3,200 conductors in a quick return to work, it will take time for CN to return to normal levels of service.
The Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions believe it is time to consider applying essential service provisions to rail service affecting grain movement. Canada’s longshoremen are already prevented from engaging in strikes that would impact the loading of grain vessels and the commissions believe those same provisions should be extended to rail.
At last report, 35 grain ships were waiting at the Port of Vancouver to load grain. Some of these will eventually incur demurrage penalties which are ultimately charged back to farmers.
“The threat of strikes affecting grain movement is a recurring theme every few years and we need a long-term solution to ensure Canada can meet its export commitments.”
– David Bishop, Alberta Barley Chair
“We still get questions from international customers about the grain backlogs of 2017-18 so we need to have a national conversation about how we can assure them that we have a reliable supply chain.”
– Gary Stanford, Alberta Wheat Commission Chair
Marketing Communications Coordinator
Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions