Last Thursday, Canada's Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan requested clarity from the Canadian Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) on whether or not the movement of propane qualifies as an essential service that would have to be maintained during a labour disruption.

CN Rails Assistant Vice President of Grain, David Przednowek says, as a result of that request, there can be no labour disruption before the Industrial Relations Board issues a decision.

Earlier this month, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference released the results of the strike vote which showed CN and CPKC engineers and conductors, and CPKC rail traffic controllers voted 98 percent in favor of a strike mandate that would impact both freight and passenger traffic.

The key issues seem to be around wages and scheduling

Przednowek says CN strongly believes that the current uncertainty around the labour disruption needs to be resolved decidedly and as soon as possible for employees, customers, and Canadians who depend on rail to get them everyday essential goods.

"CN continues to seek a negotiated agreement with TCRC (Teamsters Canada Rail Conference) and updates on the status of negotiations and on CN's latest offers are available on the CN website updates. "

As a result of the Minister's request, the May 22 date the TCRC set as a potential date to start their labour disruption is off the table until the CIRB hands down its decision, which in itself is going to take some time.

The CIRB has asked for information on the issue from all parties, with the deadline for initial submissions and rebuttals set for May 31, 2024.

Przednowek says that CN is continuing its negotiations with the TCRC. 

In a statement on the TCRC website, negotiations for all three groups are set to continue as planned this week in Montreal, beginning May 13th with CN and May 17th with CPKC. 

"During this process a strike/lockout cannot be initiated by any affected party. The membership’s right to withdraw services is frozen while the board investigates the matter fully and issues a determination. The employers cannot lock us out either. The time required for the process to complete is virtually impossible to predict. Legal counsel has cited examples in other industries to provide some insight, but our situation is unique. The TCRC will comply with the timeline provided from the board and begin preparing submissions."