About 3,000 workers of Canadian National Railway, the country’s largest railroad operator, went on strike on Tuesday, labour union Teamsters Canada said after both parties failed to resolve contract issues.
“Conductors, trainperson and yard workers at Canadian National Railway are now officially on strike,” the union said in a tweet.
Canada, one of the world’s biggest exporters of farm products, relies on its two main railways to move canola and wheat over the vast distances from western farms to ports. Crude oil shippers in Alberta have also increasingly used trains in the past year to reach U.S. refineries as an alternative to congested pipelines.
The union had issued a 72-hour strike action notice period to the company on Saturday after the talks reached a stalemate, setting the momentum for the first strike at CN Rail in a decade.
Teamsters Canada spokesman Christopher Monette had said on Monday the strike comes because workers are “hitting a wall on issues related to health and safety.”
The labour union’s Facebook account also shared pictures of dozens of CN workers carrying placards in support of the strike on the streets of Saskatoon, Sask.
CN workers voted in favour of a strike in September after negotiations failed to produce a contract. The previous collective bargaining agreement expired on July 23.
The workers say they’re concerned about long hours, fatigue and what they consider dangerous working conditions.
The dispute comes as CN confirmed Friday that it was cutting jobs across the railway as it deals with a weakening North American economy that has eroded demand.
The union and CN did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.
With files from Akshay Balan, Allison Lampert and The Canadian Press