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CN rail service resumes, CFA is ‘extremely pleased’


November 26, 2019
By Top Crop Manager


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The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) issued a statement in response to the news that the Canadian National Railway (CN) and Teamsters, its conductors’ union, reached a tentative agreement. The announced agreement, which has yet to be ratified, puts an end to a week-long rail strike that severely impacted Canadian agriculture and other industries dependent on rail.

Normal operations at CN will resume on November 27 at 6:00 a.m. local time across Canada, with CN employees returning to work at 2 p.m. local times today.

The tentative agreement will also have to be ratified by Teamster members via secret-ballot electronic voting. Before the voting period opens, according to Teamsters, union meetings will be held across the country to explain the terms of the agreement to its members. The process usually takes several months, but the results of the ratification votes are expected within eight weeks according to CN.

Teamsters says that the details of the tentative agreement will not be released until the members have had a chance to review the document first. However, it is expected that the agreement will respond to the initial strike concerns of long working hours and dangerous working conditions faced by CN employees.

The week-long rail strike made an impact on Canadian agriculture, reducing the ability of farmers to get their grain to market and limited the availability of propane that they use to dry grain.

“Farmers in the west rely on rail shipments to get agricultural products to market, and farmers across Canada rely on rail shipments to receive farm inputs, like fertilizer and propane. Propane is used to dry grain and heat animal barns. As a result, the interruptions in rail service came at a critical point in time for farmers,” said Mary Robinson, CFA president, in a statement.

“Harvested crops need to be transported by rail to ports for export and farmers need propane to complete harvest and dry down grains to avoid losses. The delays in rail service have resulted in significant costs for farmers in the form of hefty demurrage fees from ships forced to wait at port as well as potential losses of crops due to a lack of propane for grain dryers. However, we can express relief that a resolution was found and these delays and losses are not continuing to mount for the agricultural community. Now farmers can get back to doing what we do best: contribute to the economic development, environmental stewardship and food security for everyday Canadians,” added Robinson.

The CFA stated that in light of this strike, the organization will be consulting its membership to determine ways in which potential future rail service interruptions do not negatively impact Canadian farmers.