MISSION (NEWS1130) – If you’re a commuter, you can relax. Despite a strike by CP workers across the country, the Westcoast Express is running today; commuter rail services are still running in Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto.

But with 5,000 unionized workers off the job, freight shipments booked on the Canadian Pacific Railway have ground to a halt right across Canada.

That affects the economy with shipments to a lot of key manufacturers cancelled and many grain, coal, fertilizer and forest product shipments also on hold. CP also ships a lot of food products and new vehicles over 24,000 kilometres of track in the Canada and the US.

“We agreed to initiate unique processes and have the necessary resources in place so union members can operate commuter trains and avoid disruptions to the three metro services in Canada,” says Ed Greenberg with CP. “There are a lot of internal mechanisms involved that… ensure that the train crews and rail traffic controllers are able to do their jobs and we can safely reliably ensure that the commuter trains are operating.”

Negotiations between CP and the union representing the striking workers continue today.

Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt wants CP Rail and the union to reach an agreement on their own, but the government will intervene if necessary. She says she’s “put on notice a bill to ensure that we are in a position to be able to introduce [back-to-work] legislation if necessary” to protect the economy.

Raitt notes if the strike continues for a prolonged period, it could cost the economy over half a billion dollars each week.