Canada tables back-to-work bill ending CP strike, CN signs contract

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FAST-TRACK back-to-work legislation is expected to get Canadian Pacific Railway workers on the job once it passes through parliament before the end of the week, ending rail stoppages at many of Canada's ports.

Transport Minister Denis Lebel said the strike is forcing some companies to abandon Canadian ports such as Vancouver for terminals south of the border. "Uncertainty leads to a lack of competition," he said.

But the Port of Prince Rupert, Vancouver's rival to the north, is unaffected because its Canadian National Railway workers, represented by the same union, have signed a three-year contract.

"From past precedent, we'd like CP Rail continuing to roll on Thursday," said Candian Labour Minister Lisa Raitt. "It is very clear that the Government of Canada must act now to resume rail service at CP Rail, as the prospect of ratified agreements in the short term is highly unlikely."

The CP Teamsters unit has been on strike since May 23 over pension issues and work rules, shutting down freight operations across Canada, noted Reuters. The latest round of mediated talks between the company and workers broke down at the weekend.

The CP back-to-work bill requires the federal government to appoint an arbitrator to resolve disputes within 90 days - "or any longer period that the minister may allow".

Teamsters negotiator Doug Finnson is protesting plans to reduce pension benefits, after weeks of proxy battling at the CP board level which ended with the old board being ousted by a reform-minded New York private equity firm, which holds 14 per cent of the stock.

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