Teamsters on the Canadian Pacific Railway will be ordered to end their nine-day strike shortly, when Parliament sends them back to work.
Government back-to-work legislation is becoming a trend in Canada. CP is the third private company to receive that form of government help against its workforce since the Conservatives were elected in January 2006 (Canadian National Railway was the first, and Air Canada was the second). The pace has increased since the Conservatives were re-elected with a majority in May 2011. All this follows an eight-year period (1999-2007) when the federal government actually resisted the temptation to interfere in the free collective bargaining process.
The Teamsters struck primarily because CP wants to slash pension benefits—its preferred method would be by introducing an inferior plan (defined-contribution) for new hires and for future service of existing employees. CP claims it wants to cut its pension costs and retirees' health benefits to the level of its larger competitor, CN (Canadian National).
One conductor told Labor Notes: "There isn't a whole lot workers can do in terms of fixing things with a strike, when the government can just step in and say: 'The strike is over, go back to work.' It happened with Air Canada and Canada Post not too long ago, and the teachers face it every time they want to get something fixed."
We discussed the strike and the government's action with Abe Rosner, a recently retired national representative for the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), which represents repair and maintenance employees on the Canadian Pacific.
Click here to read the interview.