'No substantive progress' with CN as strike enters fourth day: Union

The Halifax quarry operated by the National Gypsum Company in 2016

The Halifax quarry operated by the National Gypsum Company in 2016. National Gypsum Company

In a statement issued Friday morning, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference union said "no substantive progress has been made on the union's key workplace safety and health issues".

Premier François Legault is calling on the federal government to step in and quickly end the CN Rail strike because the province will soon run short on propane. Daily usage has been cut to 2.5 million litres from a typical six million litres.

"The strike can not last", Legault said in an unprompted statement to journalists in Quebec City.

The premier expressed hope for a settlement between CN Rail and the 3,200 striking workers, but called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the opposition parties to pass emergency back-to-work legislation if necessary ahead of Parliament's scheduled return on December 5. "That means we have enough for four days, four-and-a-half days".

Rationing scheme put in place Hospitals and seniors' residences will be prioritized in the rationing scheme, as will farmers, Legault said. "But honestly, this strike can not be allowed to drag on".

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Ottawa should signal it is willing "to take swift and urgent action" such as enacting a back-to-work bill. But the agricultural sector has been "severely impacted" by the propane rations, said Nathalie St-Pierre, president and CEO of the Canadian Propane Association.

"It's having a huge impact". "There's no pipeline that brings propane to Quebec".

The province's dwindling propane reserve, 85 per cent of which is supplied by rail, comes as the work stoppage by 3,200 CN conductors, train and yard workers continues.

We have customers asking 'Am I going to have propane to heat my home or to supply the facility I'm running, whether it's a hospital or a water treatment plant?' Quebec Health and Social Services spokesperson Marie-Claude Lacasse told Radio-Canada in an email that although provincial health facilities use propane for heating, food preparation and other miscellaneous purposes, they have alternatives in place to deal with the propane shortage.

Currie says that "Canadian farmers are in the middle of one of the toughest harvest seasons and with early winter weather already hitting much of the country, farmers are now contending with issues related to the availability of propane for grain farms and livestock and poultry operations".

"Farmers do not receive payment for their products until they reach the port, and the rail strike makes this impossible". However "no progress" has been made on any of the union's concerns about long hours and risky working conditions due to fatigue, he said.

The last CN Rail strike occurred in late 2009 when 1,700 engineers walked off the job for three days.

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