02/06/2015 11:41 EST | Updated 04/08/2015 05:59 EDT

CP Rail, Teamsters union tensions near boiling point

Tension is growing at CP Rail between the company and the union representing conductors and locomotive engineers.

A possible work stoppage could take place later this month as workers have been without a contract since Dec. 31.

Now, the union alleges the railway is violating a recent ruling regarding the use of union workers to teach CP Rail managers and office workers to operate trains.

The union claims managers are telling locomotive engineers to vacate the train seat or be disciplined. The workers are then told to remain on the train engine.

A lawyer for Teamsters Canada Rail Conference wrote a letter this week to CP Rail, alleging the union has heard of further cases of managers relieving employees in Calgary, Medicine Hat and other locations. The letter says "crews are then relegated to the role of observers."

Last month, the Canadian Industrial Relations Board ordered the railway to stop having unionized workers provide training for managers. Also, when unionized workers are available to work, managers can't step in and replace those workers.

The January labour board ruling states, "The board appreciates the employer's desire to ensure that managers are fully familiar with railway operations, but it also understands the union's very real concern that the training of managers will result in the creation of a pool of trained strikebreakers in the event of a lawful work stoppage." 

At the time, CP Rail said it would comply with the labour board ruling.  

CP is still allowed to use managers and office staff to operate trains, but only in certain situations. When there is a shortage of professional unionized workers, managers can step in and fill those positions to ensure the trains continue operating.

Contract negotiations between Teamsters and CP Rail are ongoing. 

The earliest that a work stoppage could occur is Feb. 14. After that date, a strike or lockout could be called by the union or the company.