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Vol. 76/No. 23      June 11, 2012

Canadian rail strike
paralyzes shipping

(lead article)
MONTREAL—A strike by 4,800 Canadian Pacific Railway engineers, conductors, yardmen and rail traffic controllers, which began just after midnight May 23, is paralyzing freight deliveries across Canada, stranding shipments of grain, fertilizer, coal, metal ore, automobiles and other commodities.

Under an agreement with the union, vital commuter passenger services in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto that use CP rail lines are continuing to operate.

The workers, members of the Teamsters union, are fighting efforts by the Canadian Pacific bosses to slash pensions and increase their workload to strengthen what the bosses call the “competitiveness” of the company. Their five-year contract expired Dec. 31, 2011.

At the CP Lachine intermodal yard near Montreal, a picket line of about 20 strikers held up container trucks for 20 minutes at a time. “We have unity on the line,” Eric Paquette, chair of Teamsters Division 268, told the Militant. “The Rail Traffic Controllers are out and with us. And the CP workers who are being laid off are also with us because they know they will be next. We are not going to accept cuts to our pensions or worse job conditions.”

Canadian Pacific has a total workforce of 8,200. On the first day of the Teamsters’ walkout the company laid off 2,000 other workers and has threatened to cut 1,400 more. CP also has 18,000 retirees on its pension rolls.

A leaflet distributed by the strikers to explain the walkout says that “CP wants to reduce future pension income for active employees; the amounts vary by income, but are significant and are up to 40%.” The leaflet also says bosses want to reduce retirement health care benefits and eliminate them altogether at age 65—“a reduction of over $20,000 per member.”

Work safety is an issue in the contract fight. CP is demanding work rule concessions that include introducing 12-hour shifts without rest.

A few hours before the workers put up picket lines, Federal Labor Minister Lisa Raitt threatened to bring in strikebreaking legislation on the grounds that the Canadian economy would lose $540 million a week if the strike was allowed to continue. Last fall Ottawa used strikebreaking laws to order striking postal and Air Canada workers back to work.
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