March 26, 2024 | Circular No. 11649

Dear Member,

Further to CL 11621, labour issues continue to be a major subject of concern to supply chain stakeholders and Federation members.  Given the ongoing importance of this subject, we have provided below an update on the status of key contract negotiations in the port of rail sectors, and on the progress of several labour-related initiatives from the federal government.

CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS

Montreal Port Workers

As previously reported, the contract between the Montreal Maritime Employers’ Association and approximately 1,000 longshore workers represented by CUPE (the Canadian Union of Public Employees) expired on December 31, 2023.  Although the MEA had applied to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) to designate longshore work at the Port of Montreal as “essential,” that request  was rejected by the Board in a decision issued on March 14.

Although the two parties engaged in negotiations through the fall and early winter, no discussions have taken place  since January 16.  As a result, the MEA filed an application last Friday seeking the CIRB’s assistance in having the negotiations restarted.  It is our understanding that should this request be successful, the earliest negotiations could resume is April 8.  It is also worth noting that although the Union has not signaled strike action, they are expected to undertake a strike vote during the first two weeks of April.

BC Port Workers

As previously reported, the contract between the BC Maritime Employers’ Association and 730 ship and dock foremen represented by ILWU Local 514 expired in March 2023.  Given the relatively slow pace at which negotiations with this group have been progressing, the BCMEA filed a notice of dispute for conciliation assistance from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service on January 10, which was granted on January 19.  Although the 60-day conciliation period was scheduled to end on March 19, both parties have agreed to a 30-day extension, meaning that conciliation will now extend until April 18.  This will be followed by a 21 day cooling off period ending on May 9.

CPKC Rail Workers

The contract between CPKC and 3,200 employees represented by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) also expired at the end of 2023.  Given the lack of any substantive progress in negotiations between the two sides, CPKC filed a request for federal conciliation on February 16, with conciliation officers being appointed on March 1. The conciliation phase will last for 60 days, and will then be followed by a required 21-day cooling off period, which means that the soonest a work stoppage could occur is May 22.

It is worth noting that the employees involved in these negotiations include not only engineers, conductors and train and yard workers, but rail traffic controllers as well.  The TCRC is currently arranging the appropriate strike votes, which will begin on April 8.

CN Workers

The status of negotiations between CN and the TCRC is very similar to those of CPKC. More specifically, federal conciliators were appointed on March 1, thereby triggering a 60-day conciliation period that will be followed by a 21-day cooling off period, meaning that there cannot be a strike or lock-out  before May 22.  The main difference between the CN and CPKC situation is that the CN negotiations involve a greater number of employees (approximately 6,000), but this number does not include rail traffic controllers.

RECENT POLICY INITIATIVES

Port Labour Review

Federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan appointed two industrial relations experts (Anthony Giles and Kevin Banks) last fall to lead a review of the structural issues underlying recent labour disruptions at ports across Canada, which is being conducted under section 106 of the Canada Labour Code.  The two experts recently submitted a report to the Minister offering recommended terms of reference for the review, which the Minister is now considering before updating stakeholders on the next steps in the review process.

As previously reported, the Federation sent a letter to both review leads last December, in which we flagged our interest in the review from an ocean carrier perspective and requested that we be included in the consultative process.  We are following the review very closely and will keep members apprised of relevant developments.

Bill C-58 – Replacement Worker Ban

Bill C-58, which seeks to prohibit the use of temporary replacement workers during a strike or lock-out in federally-regulated industries has passed first and second reading in the House of Commons, and is now before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Development.  The Committee held an initial hearing on March 21, with additional meetings to be scheduled over the coming weeks.  Given the potential impacts of this legislation on the continuity of supply chain operations during a labour disruption, we will closely monitor the committee’s work with a view to potentially submitting comments.

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Members requiring additional information on any of the above should contact the undersigned.

Sincerely,

Karen Kancens
Vice President