Canada rail strike to end, freeing up wheat and rapeseed shipments

26 Nov 2019 | Rei Geyssens

Rail operations in Canada are expected to restart early Wednesday, ending a week-long strike that halted exports of wheat and rapeseed from the country's main west-coast port.  

Canada's main rail union on Tuesday said it has reached a tentative agreement with the Canadian National Railway (CN), after a strike involving 3,200 staff prevented shipments of wheat, rapeseed and potash shipments reaching export terminals at Vancouver.

The provisional deal will likely stave off ompany shutdowns and layoffs from companies reliant on exports, including the grains sector.

Meanwhile, at least 35 vessels were queued up off Canada’s western coast waiting to be loaded with grain, Mark Hemmes, president of Quorum Corp which tracks grain shipments for the government, according to a Reuters report.

The Canadian Oilseed Processors Association (COPA), which includes companies such as ADM, Bunge, Cargill, Louis Dreyfus and Richardson, said at the start of the rail strike action it would be forced to curb rapeseed production because of logistical delays.

“After a weeklong strike, the Teamsters and Canadian National (CN) have reached a tentative agreement to renew the collective agreement,” the union said in its press release.

It added: “Normal operations at CN will resume tomorrow at 0600 local time,” the Quebec-based union said.

The union will hold meetings across Canada to explain the terms of the agreement to members, which will be followed by a secret ballot to ratify the tentative agreement – a process that “usually takes several months,” the union said.

Details of the agreement will only be released after members have had a chance to review the document.

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

“We want to thank our customers for their patience and support and assure them that CN is preparing to resume full rail operations as soon as possible,” Jean-Jacques Ruest, CEO of CN, said in a statement.

The tentative deal came after Canadian companies, including farmers, warned about the impact on their operations from the seven-day strike, which brought internal logistics to a complete standstill.

Farmers in Quebec protested on Monday by dumping bags of corn on the steps of prime minister Justin Trudeau’s office, demanding an end to the strike as it had caused a shortage of propane needed to dry their corn after a wet harvest.