The lockout of more than 100 Southern Railway of BC workers this week could impact Chilliwack companies dependent on the train traffic for moving freight.
Management at the New West-based Southern Rail has said it will keep the trains running through the Fraser Valley to Chilliwack with the help of 34 managers.
SRY announced Monday that 126 workers from CUPE 7000 had been locked out, after months of talks and mediation failed to yield a collective agreement.
The Chilliwack division of Rogers Foods Ltd. on Simpson Road in Chilliwack uses SRY rail service for grain shipment primarily, said Joe Girdner, vice president of procurement and logistics for Rogers Foods.
“We do some limited flour, but the bulk of it is grain,” he noted.
Things could slow down with reduced rail service, he said, as they typically would receive several shipments per week.
“But we’ve been assured by management at SRY that there will not be a heavy disruption of service,” Girdner said. “We will expect some slowdowns, but SRY will be providing service with some their management stepping in.”
Chilliwack companies like Rogers, as well as Hi Pro Feeds, which is on the same rail line, have been talking about the SRY lockout and making contingency plans.
“SRY has done a good job,” said Girdner. “They have been in negotiations with the union for some time now, and they’ve been good at keeping us updated. So we knew there was a possibility of this previously.”
It happened Monday.
“We are extremely disappointed in the outcome of these negotiations,” said Frank Butzelaar, president of Southern Railway of BC.
Throughout the lockout, SRY management crews “will do their best to minimize the impact” on customers, he pledged in a release.
The lockout affects several workplaces, the three main rail sites being New Westminster Trapp Yard, Huntingdon in Abbotsford and Annacis Island in Delta. SRY managers are now in charge of the rail line that runs from Vancouver to Chilliwack.
SRY moves freight around the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley with nearly half of it coming or going from Annacis Island. The railway served 72-hour lockout notice on Dec. 31, a day after CUPE 7000 members voted 91 per cent to turn down the six-year offer of 1.5 per cent for the first four years and 1.9 per cent for the final two. Only 10 members did not vote. The lockout went into effect Monday at 5 a.m.
“I’m not really surprised given that they’ve been threatening for some time that they were going to do this,” said CUPE 7000 president Bill Magri.
The union, which has been joined on the picket line by SRY’s six office workers represented by COPE 378, is expecting the dispute to be a long one. They only met six times in six months.
“It could be a long one, and we’re definitely prepared. We’ll just dig in and see where we go,” said Magri.
—with files from Grant Granger, New Westminster News Leader