Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. rail employees are back on the job, but one labour relations expert says it could take weeks before matters are settled between the country's second-largest railway and the union representing 3,000 conductors, engineers, train and yard workers.
CP Rail and Teamsters Canada Rail Conference announced early Tuesday that they have agreed to final and binding arbitration to end a work stoppage that began on the weekend.
"Given the high profile of this company, the arbitration process will probably be fast-tracked, but we're not talking days, we're talking weeks," said Robert Hickey, a labour and employment professor at Queen's University.
He also said CP Rail is well aware of the importance and need to manage labour relations and bring the dispute to a quick settlement, as it waits for approval from a U.S. regulator on its merger with U.S. railway Kansas City Southern.
"Labour relations is a key component of being a competitive player in this marketplace," he said.
In a statement early Tuesday morning, Teamsters Canada Rail Conference spokesperson Dave Fulton said while binding arbitration was not the preferred method, the union was able to negotiate terms and conditions that were in the best interest of its members, with wages and pensions still stumbling blocks.
CP CEO Keith Creel said in a statement that the railway was pleased to have reached the agreement to enter into binding arbitration, enabling it "to resume our essential services for our customers and the North American supply chain."
The statement added CP will begin working with customers to resume normal train operations across Canada as soon as possible.
The two sides had been meeting with the help of federal mediators.
CP Rail shut down operations on Sunday just after midnight. A few hours later, Teamsters issued a statement saying the employees were locked out but were also on strike.
Federal Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan said in a statement that the outcome "is further evidence that when employers and unions work together, we get the best results for Canadians and our economy."
Industry groups had been pressing Ottawa to introduce back-to-work legislation to end the work stoppage, but O'Regan indicated over the weekend that the government believed the best deal is reached at the bargaining table.
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