Close to 10,000 rail workers at CN and CPKC have voted to go on strike unless a deal can be reached with the railways. 

CN and CPKC engineers and conductors, and CPKC rail traffic controllers voted 98 percent in favor of a strike mandate that would impact both freight and passenger traffic.

The key issues seem to be around wages and scheduling.

Teamsters Canada Rail Conference President Paul Boucher says both railways want to have federal minimum safety standards for rest periods.

"The company's intentions are to squeeze more out of their employees because they can't find enough people to operate and control trains. CN and CPKC are also almost completely incapable of retaining workers they do recruit. Recent hiring incentives bonuses are doing little to keep these employees long term. Compromising on safety is never the solution to staffing problems. CN and CPKC should instead be looking to improve working conditions and adopt a more humane approach to railroading."

Boucher is concerned about the railway tactics in the negotiations, adding that the two companies seem to have very similar demands.

"It has become abundantly clear that both companies are colluding in hopes of undermining our defense of their workers, our members, and public safety. The Teamsters hold contracts with over 3000 employers across Canada and over 90% of the time we reached negotiated settlements and avoid disputes. However, CN and CPKC are among a short list of problem companies whose bargaining strategies have consistently led to massive work stoppages."

A statement on the Teamsters website notes that they understand the potential impact of a work stoppage and are committed to getting to a resolution.

"At the same time, our demands are not unreasonable and there is no excuse why we should not be able to negotiate an acceptable collective agreement."

The strike vote occurred following six months of negotiations.

There is no formal word on exactly when a strike will occur, but the union has said the earliest it could occur would be May 22nd.