December 1, 2023

Business International

Business International For Your Health

Rail stoppage after bridge blockade adds to business owners’ grief

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The Canadian Pacific Railway work stoppage that began Sunday is just the latest “perfect storm” of bad news to hit an already strained and stressed supply chain and transportation logistics network, say local business leaders.

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Coming just a month after a weeklong trucker blockade of the Ambassador Bridge, the labour dispute between the nation’s second-biggest railroad company and its 3,000 conductors, engineers and train and yard personnel has the potential to cause “catastrophic” further damage to the Canadian and local economies, they say.

And it could also bring further grief to Canadians stung by escalating prices for consumer goods due to logistics challenges caused my a myriad of factors.

“This is very unfortunate, coming on the heels of a blockade that impacted supply chains already impacted by COVID, and now Russia’s war with Ukraine,” said Rakesh Naidu, president and CEO of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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This is stressing out a system already under stress

The Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association, which represents companies like Stellantis and Ford with big manufacturing footprints in Windsor, tweeted Monday that the CP Rail work stoppage “puts Canada’s reputation as a reliable jurisdiction for the production and movement of goods at risk.”

Rail workers strike at the Canadian Pacific Railway Company on Tecumseh Blvd. West, off of Crawford Avenue, on Monday, March 21, 2022.
Rail workers strike at the Canadian Pacific Railway Company on Tecumseh Blvd. West, off of Crawford Avenue, on Monday, March 21, 2022. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

In a letter to the federal labour minister on the eve of the work stoppage, CVMA president and CEO Brian Kingston warned that “rail service disruptions at this time would be devastating to the Canadian economy.”

While not directly or immediately impacting the important local tool, die and mould sector, which relies heavily on trucks to move its just-in-time parts, Laval International CEO Jonathon Azzopardi said “it’s only a matter of time before it impacts us.” Any rail disruption beyond several days to a week, he said, “can be catastrophic for us.”

“This is stressing out a system already under stress,” said Azzopardi, who is also chairman of the Canadian Association of Mold Makers. Even worse, he added, “this is sending a message we are not a dependable country to trade with.”

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Naidu said any rail work stoppage impacts a wide range of products, including finished vehicles, grains, steel, building construction materials, fertilizer and manufactured goods that need trains to ship to market. Local warehousing space, he said, is at a premium, and “if this drags on, there will be potential layoffs.”

As with the recent Ambassador Bridge blockade by those protesting government health mandates due to COVID-19, the CP Rail stoppage is “clearly something that will raise concerns” among those considering future investment decisions, said Naidu.

“It’s a perfect storm,” he said. “This is not good news, not just for businesses but the for common person as well.”

Despite business voices pushing the federal government to legislate a speedy end to the CP Rail disruption, Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan said Monday both the company and the Teamsters union representing workers are continuing their talks at the bargaining table.

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