Striking CP Rail workers in Kamloops say they are on the streets to preserve hard won pensions — some after more than 30 years on the railway.
Workers picketed the CP Rail yard beside Lansdowne Village downtown as well as on Lorne Street. About 15 workers carried pickets at each location Wednesday on day one of the strike by 4,800 locomotive engineers, conductors and yardmen.
For Darryl Kimball, it was the only the second time he’s been on strike during his 35-year career with the railway. The last time was 25 years ago.
While some issues never change — wages among them — Kimball and other workers said preserving their pensions is their No. 1 goal.
“CP wants to reduce our pensions by up to 40 per cent,” said the striking Kimball, standing beside Third Avenue.
“They want to cut it, cap it. People have been paying into the pension for 35 years. Now they want to cut it.”
Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said Wednesday she’s urging both sides to keep talking in order to get a deal. Ottawa is backing that up by preparing back-to-work legislation.
Raitt estimated a lengthy strike would cost the economy $540 million a week.
Watching the labour dispute is Domtar Corp., which uses CP Rail both for shipping out product and to bring in chemicals for the Kamloops pulp mill.
Corporate spokeswoman Bonny Skene said there is no immediate impact to the mill because it has chemical inventory as well as space to stockpile pulp for shipment.
But it is hoping for a swift resolution of the strike in order to avoid supply and shipment problems.
Maurice Hindle, general manager of mining supplier Moly-Cop, said the company is affected because it is on a CP Rail spur line but there are no immediate concerns. Trucking is one option.
But the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce said the Canadian economy can’t afford a hit to the economy from an industrial shutdown that a prolonged strike would cause.
“If it goes on, you never know how it will spin off.”
Highland Valley Copper, which uses CN Rail exclusively to ship out of Ashcroft, is not affected.
Other issues for workers include worker call-out schedules, including the dangers of fatigue.
Kimball said members of Teamsters Canada Rail Conference are prepared to stay out as long as it takes.
“They’re still talking today. It (resolution) could be anytime. It could be today, tomorrow, next week. We don’t know.”