Upwards of 750 electrical workers from the Canadian National Railway went on strike Saturday, June 18, and a protracted work stoppage could impact the supply chains again.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Canada walked out after contract negotiations came to a standstill. Canadian National Railway reportedly offered electrical workers an 8-percent wage increase over three years, improved healthcare plan flexibility, an increase in meal per diems, and mileage reimbursements.
“We have been in negotiations with the union since October 2021. CN has approached this round of bargaining with the objective of improving wages, benefits, and work rules, and ensuring the safety of our employees,” a statement from Canadian National reportedly states. “We have met or exceeded every one of the Union’s demands in an effort to reach an agreement prior to the strike deadline. Unfortunately, we did not reach an agreement and the union has exercised its legal right to strike.”
But like the U.S., Canada’s inflation rate reached a 40-year-high, spiking by 7.7 percent in May. Accepting a three-year deal with locked-in 8-percent salary increases could leave electrical workers with less in their pockets. Although the early days of the strike have not necessarily upended the supply chain, that could change dramatically once electrical repairs are needed.
Wages aside, one of the key sticking points revolves around “out-of-region work.” If accepted, the railroad would have the authority to require electrical workers to relocate for a set period of time. Employees and, possibly, their families could be sent to other provinces with little notice. The union noted this same issue became divisive during the last contract negotiation. It was set aside as the parties reached a five-year deal that expired in 2021.
Union officials and on-strike workers are reportedly monitoring a massive 50,000-employee rail strike in Britain. The freight and commuter rail systems were impacted after a 24-hour work stoppage. The UK strikes ground transportation to a near halt, with only 20 percent of passenger runs available. Businesses across the country saw employees calling out, unable to get to work.
“Fragile consumer confidence will take a further hit, thousands of people able and willing to spend money in hospitality venues across the country will be prevented from doing so, while staff will undoubtedly struggle to even get to work,” Kate Nicholls, chief executive of industry body UK Hospitality, reportedly said.
On America’s West Coast, the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have been embroiled in labor negotiations so heated the parties scheduled a pause. With the current contract set to expire July 1, 29 Pacific ports would be devastated should workers go on strike.