Canada Rail strike ends as CN Rail, union reach tentative deal

Sandrine Rastello

A week-long rail strike that halted shipments of oil, grains and potash across Canada, threatening to take a multibillion bite out of the economy, is over.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference union said it reached a tentative deal with Canadian National Railway Co. and normal operations will resume at 6 a.m. on Wednesday. About 3,200 conductors and railyard workers walked off the job Nov. 19.

Striking Canadian National Railway workers picket in front of the company's Taschereau railyard Monday, November 25, 2019 in Montreal.

The deal must now be ratified by Teamsters members via secret-ballot electronic voting. The union thanked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for respecting workers’ right to strike.

“Previous governments routinely violated workers’ right to strike when it came to the rail industry,” Teamsters Canada President Franois Laporte, said in a statement Tuesday. “This government remained calm and focused on helping parties reach an agreement, and it worked.“

The walkout was the first in a decade at Canada’s largest railway, one of the two main companies that haul cargo across the country, and had begun to take an increasing toll on the economy. Industry groups had been pleading with Trudeau to legislate an end to the strike but the government had pushed for a negotiated settlement.

Montreal-based CN Rail carries about C$250 billion ($189 billion) worth of goods annually, including 180,000 barrels a day of oil in September, according to its earnings call.

With assistance from Ashley Robinson.