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CN Rail strike putting farmer’s harvests in jeopardy

Image of Nick Seebruch
By Nick Seebruch
CN Rail strike putting farmer’s harvests in jeopardy
Photo of the CN Rail yard. Wikimedia Commons photo.

SOUTH GLENGARRY, Ontario – Farmers in Ontario have raised growing concerns over the CN Rail strike.

On Nov. 19 3,200 Canadian CN conductors and railway coordinators went off the job. Issues cited by the Teamsters Canadian Rail Conference – Conductors, Trainpersons and Yardpersons include fatigue, workplace safety and a lifetime cap on benefits.

The strike however has left farmers concerned that they will face difficulties in collecting this year’s harvest, particularly since CN has announced that it has ceased all shipping of propane for the time being due to the strike.

“I just found out yesterday we aren’t getting propane anymore for our corn dryers,” said Martin Lang, South Glengarry Councillor and a farmer. “This season’s been wetter than usual, so we are already using more propane than normal.”

Land said he was not sure what would happen if a resolution is not found soon.

“I guess it is a wait and see type of situation,” he said. “It is going to be tough on us (farmers) if it drags on for a few weeks.”

As the weather gets colder, Lang expects the demand for propane to get higher as farmers scramble to get their corn dry and ready for market, explaining that he knew of one neighbour with 300 tonnes of corn waiting to be dried.

One farmer reached out to local provincial and federal representatives through Twitter.

In response, newly elected Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry Conservative MP Eric Duncan called on the House of Commons to reconvene to put an end to the CN Rail strike.

“Today, I am calling on Parliament to reconvene immediately to table emergency back-to-work legislation to end the CN rail strike. Farmers have had to stop harvesting due to propane shortages & a continued strike will only hurt our economy even more,” Duncan wrote on Twitter.

MacEwen Petroleum President Peter MacEwen told Seaway News that his company had plenty of stock of propane.

“The issue is since rail has stopped entirely, and most propane is transported by rail, we can foresee shortages if this strike is not resolved quickly,” he said.

MacEwen said that in light of the situation, his company is focused on providing home heating and has stopped providing corn dryers.

“We are hopeful that the various levels of government will support the industry and help find a solution to this potentially serious situation,” MacEwen said.

Levac Propane was also called for comment on the potential shortage of propane but did not respond as of time of publication.

CN Rail issued a statement on the strike situation saying that they hoped a fair deal was still possible.

“We continue to negotiate in good faith to reach a fair agreement before the strike deadline. In the spirit of protecting the Canadian economy, we have offered the union binding arbitration and they have declined,” said Rob Reilly, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of CN Rail. “If a settlement cannot be reached this weekend, we will once again encourage the union leadership to accept binding arbitration as an alternative to disrupting the Canadian economy. We remain committed to constructive talks to reach an agreement without a work stoppage.”

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