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Canada’s Rail Workers Approve Strike Mandate

Employees at Canada's two biggest railways could walk off the job within three weeks if they are unable to reach new collective agreements with management.

About 6,000 unionized employees at Canadian National Railway (CNR) and 3,300 at Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CP) have voted 97% in favour of a strike mandate.

The workers are represented by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, and a strike mandate is common in labour negotiations as it gives the union leverage in negotiations.

Still, a labour strike at the two rail companies would seriously hamper trade and the movement of goods across Canada.

The union has said that a simultaneous work stoppage at Canadian National and Canadian Pacific would disrupt supply chains on an “unprecedented scale.”

The strike mandate means that conductors, engineers, yard workers and dispatchers could hit the picket lines as soon as May 22.

A rail strike could also impact commuters across Canada as dispatchers who direct passenger trains on Toronto's GO Transit network, Montreal's Exo line, and Vancouver's West Coast Express are also involved in the current labour talks.

For their part, the rail companies say they have made fair offers to the union, offering workers benefit enhancements while compromising nothing on safety.

Three different contracts are currently being negotiated, for CN rail workers, CPKC rail workers, and CPKC rail traffic controllers.

The stock of Canadian National Railway has risen 3% in the last 12 months to trade at $166.50 per share.

Canadian Pacific Kansas City’s stock is flat (up 0.31%) during the past 12 months and trading at $106.76 a share.