A Canadian Pacific Railway employee walks along the side of a locomotive in a marshalling yard in Calgary, Wednesday, May 16, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CP Rail talks set to resume in Calgary after unions reject railway offer

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. is resuming contract talks with its train operators and signalling workers after they overwhelmingly rejected the company’s offer in a vote ordered by the federal government.

About 3,000 members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference voted 98.1 per cent against the company’s final offer.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represents 365 signal and communications workers, voted about 97 per cent against the offer.

The union said talks are set to resume Friday at 1 p.m. MT in Calgary in an attempt to achieve an agreement and avoid a work stoppage.

The Teamsters said they will work with federal mediators, but are prepared to exercise their right to strike if talks fail or the company does not wish to bargain.

The railway and the unions must give 72 hours notice before they lock out workers or launch a strike.

Doug Finnison, president of the Teamsters Rail Conference, said the results come after union negotiators recommended that members reject the officer.

“CP’s actions have forced us to vote for strike action three times in the past six years. Today, our members have again expressed their anger and frustration with CP,” he said in a news release.

“It’s now up to CP to listen and show they respect workers by changing their confrontational relationship with their employees, our members.”

CP Rail and the IBEW couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

Federal Employment Minister Patty Hajdu ordered last month that the company’s offer be presented to union members in a vote administered by the Canadian Industrial Relations Board.

The minister’s directive which came just before a strike deadline ended mediated talks between the railway and two unions.

The Calgary-based railway has offered two per cent annual wage increases and $1,000 to each member to drop a series of filed grievances.

The Teamsters bargaining team rejected the offer and was unhappy that the fatigue of its members wasn’t addressed by the company.

The vote came as the country’s two large railways have been regaining momentum following the challenges of a tough winter that slowed service, particularly for grain.

Groups representing agricultural products and other commodities have previously warned that rail disruptions would be harmful and exacerbate problems they experienced earlier in the year.

CP Rail train crews have engaged in two strikes in the past few years. In 2015, they ended a brief walkout and agreed to arbitration after the Harper government warned of back-to-work legislation. Three years earlier, federal back-to-work legislation was enacted to end a 10-day strike.

CP Rail previously warned that a work stoppage would hurt its ability to provide safe and efficient freight and passenger/commuter service.

Via Rail Canada, Greater Toronto transit operator Metrolinx, and the The BC Rapid Transit Co. have said it would result in some disruptions.

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