The western Canada’s province Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has raised serious concerns over potential rail and port work stoppages by workers at Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Kansas City Railway, mentioning that a work stoppage would effectively shut down Canadian logistics networks.

The federal government is moving to push back the start of a possible strike, an official said on Friday.

No later than 5:00 p.m. on May 21, the Canada Industrial Relations Board given its role in preventing an immediate and serious danger to the health and safety of the public, is inviting affected groups and organizations to make submissions on these matters.

The Minister of Labour Seamus O’Regan, said he had asked the Canada Industrial Relations Board to look at whether the strike might have implications.

Seamus O’Regan announced on social media site X that he asked “the Canada Industrial Relations Board to look into maintenance of activities agreements between Teamsters Rail, CN Railway and CPKC rail. Serious concerns have been raised about potential impacts to the health and safety of Canadians.”

A potential strike is unlikely to start on the planned date while the board investigates the matter fully.

Canada Industrial Relations Board it needs to hear input from the parties involved and is willing to accept written submissions until May 21.

“A work stoppage would effectively shut down Canadian logistics networks, disrupting the movement of essential goods throughout North America,” Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that was released by her office.

“Our freight railways and ports are the veins of Canada’s economy. In 2023, Alberta exported $20.1 billion in goods by rail including minerals, agriculture and forestry products. The transportation and warehousing sector also contributed more than five per cent of Alberta’s GDP and employed almost 5.5 per cent of Albertans in 2022. Any work stoppage affecting our railways and ports would be crippling for our national economy and North American supply chains,” she said among others in its letter.

Some carriers have already begun preparing contingency plans for a potential strike.

Danish liner Maersk has taken steps to mitigate the impact in the event of a work stoppage that could occur as early as 22 May, while the country’s government is seeking to push back the date of the possible strike.

As Maersk reports, on May 1 the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), a union representing more than 9,000 employees at Canadian National Railway Co. (CN) and Canadian Pacific Kansas City Ltd. (CPKC) announced that their membership voted in favor of a strike. The parties have begun a mandatory 21-day “cooling off” period but have scheduled additional meetings with the assistance of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services (FMCS) in an effort to negotiate a contract.

The contract between the rail lines and the union workers expired on 21 December 2023.

Maersk now warns that if the parties fail to reach a new agreement, rail service across the entirety of Canada will be effectively shut down for both freight and commuter services, which are run by the affected conductors, locomotive engineers, yard workers and rail traffic controllers.

Premier Danielle Smith added that “shutting down both railways concurrently would bring our economy to a halt, put Canadians from coast to coast at unacceptable risk, and cause even more damage to Canada’s reputation as a reliable trading partner. This potential work stoppage comes on the heels of two other damaging strikes that took place at B.C. ports and the St. Lawrence Seaway last year.”