May 23, 2024 | Circular No. 11668

Dear Member,

You will find below a summary of recent developments regarding labour negotiations that are of interest to supply chain stakeholders:

Rail Workers

As reported in CL 11665, the federal Minister of Labour made a referral to the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) on May 10th to determine whether certain types of rail activity must continue during a strike or lockout to prevent an immediate and serious danger to public health and safety.  The CIRB’s investigation is very narrowly focused, and is specifically concerned with the movement of propane (as relates to CPKC), and the movement of heavy fuel, propane and food and water treatment materials (as relates to CN).  In both cases, the Board is seeking to determine the level of operations that would be necessary to guard against an imminent threat to human health and safety should it rule that any of the above-noted commodities are essential.   Affected stakeholders had until May 21st to provide comments to the CIRB, and the railways and union now have until May 31st to respond.

Although yesterday marked the expiration of the mandatory 21-day “cooling off” period following the conciliation process between the railways and union, the Minister’s referral to the CIRB regarding the maintenance of activities means that a legal strike or lock-out cannot occur until the CIRB has issued its ruling on this matter.  While it remains unclear how long it will take for the CIRB to issue a decision, previous experience suggests that this process could potentially extend well into July.

According to the most recent information provided by the railways, mediated negotiations between CN and the TCRC took place from May 13 to 17, but did not result in any concrete progress, while negotiations between CPKC and the TCRC occurred on May 15 and 21, also without any concrete results.

West Coast Longshore Workers

As relates to the ongoing negotiations between the BCMEA and 730 ship and dock forepersons represented by the ILWU, both parties acquired the legal right to strike or lock-out as of May 10th, which is when the 21-day “cooling off” period that followed their conciliation process expired.  Although forepersons working at the DP World container terminal at Centerm subsequently voted in favour of a strike should this be deemed appropriate by the union, NO strike vote has been taken by forepersons working at the other affected terminals.  It is also our understanding that the ILWU is pushing to negotiate directly with DP World for the forepersons working at that terminal, rather than with the BCMEA as would normally be the case (DP World has not agreed to this request).

Port of Montreal Longshore Workers

There are no new developments to report regarding the status of negotiations between the MEA and the union representing longshore workers at the port of Montreal.  Although the union acquired the legal right to strike at the end of 2023 following the expiration of the mandatory 21-day cooling off period, they have not yet taken a strike vote nor have they provided any indication as to when this might occur.

CBSA Border Service Officers

As reported in CL 11665,  9,000 members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) who work at CBSA have been conducting a strike vote since mid-April.  Although the electronic voting period was originally set to end last week, the process was subsequently extended by the union until May 23.  Once the voting process has been completed, any potential actions, including the ability to strike by some CBSA staff, cannot be taken until a report from the Public Interest Commission (PIC) is issued, which may take several weeks.

Although 90 percent of CBSA’s front line officers are considered to be “essential” workers, a strike could nevertheless lead to increases in border wait times, picketing outside CBSA premises, and actions to  impede the movement of goods and travelers across the border, such as referring high volumes of cargo for secondary exams, subjecting travelers to increased questioning, etc.  We have been in close contact with CBSA on this issue, and they advise that are actively working to plan for these situations and have developed mitigation strategies to ensure the continuity of operations to the greatest extent possible.

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We will continue to monitor developments related to these ongoing negotiations, with a view to providing updates to members as new information becomes available.  In the meantime, members may wish to refer to the attached DIAGRAM, which provides a summary of the processes and timelines that govern labour negotiations in federally-regulated workplaces, as set out in Section 89 of the Canada Labour Code.

Sincerely,

Karen Kancens
Vice President