CALGARY -- A rail strike has been temporarily averted after the federal labour minister ordered employees of Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. to vote on the company's final offers, just hours before they were set to walk off the job.
Statements from both CP Rail and two unions representing workers say the minister's order to administer a ratification vote on each of the two offers follows advice of federal mediators.
In a release late Friday, representatives for the unions recommended that their members reject the company's offers.
Earlier this week, the Teamsters and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers gave the railway a 72-hour notice of strike action.
CP Rail said in a statement that the minister's order means there will be no disruption in commuter or freight service.
"CP will immediately begin to execute a safe and structured start-up of its train operations in Canada," the railway said in a statement Friday night.
However, a statement from the unions says the company's offers don't have a "chance in hell of being ratified."
An electronic vote on the offers will be conducted by the Canada Industrial Relations Boards at an undetermined date.
The unions say if the offers are rejected, workers will be free to strike.
A shut down of CP Rail services would have wide ranging repercussions.
Via Rail Canada had warned passengers Friday that a strike might force it to cancel morning trains on Saturday and Sunday between Sudbury and White River, Ont.
And Greater Toronto transit operator Metrolinx had warned of possible delays for customers on its Milton and Barrie lines. It noted CP also owns a section of corridor leading into the Hamilton GO Centre and train service to and from this station would not be provided, although regular GO bus service would continue and extra buses would be put into service.
The BC Rapid Transit Company said Friday it would provide buses if a CP Rail disruption stopped its West Coast Express train service in the Greater Vancouver area.
VIA Rail and Metrolinx had advised customers to check their websites for updates.
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