OTTAWA, ON (NEWS1130) – The Harper government has introduced back-to-work legislation to end the strike by 4,800 Canadian Pacific Railway workers.

In the House of Commons, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt says the government must act now in order to preserve Canada’s international reputation. She believes the country’s reputation as an international business partner is at stake, and that CP Rail’s business has an impact of half a billion dollars a week on the Canadian economy.

Mediated contract talks between the railway and the union representing locomotive engineers and conductors collapsed yesterday.

Raitt gave notice of intention to intervene shortly after Wednesday morning’s walkout halted the CP’s freight service across Canada, meaning she can table the bill as early as today and the strikers can be ordered back to work later this week.

The minister has estimated a prolonged strike by CP Rail works could cost the Canadian economy $540 million a week.

This is the third time the government has intervened in a labour dispute in similar fashion.

Opposition critics say the Conservative government’s heavy-handed use of back-to-work legislation is undermining the right to collective bargaining and will hurt the wages of all workers, unionized or not. NDP House leader Nathan Cullen says the government appears to have forgotten that workers are part of the economy, too.

Pensions, as well as work rules and fatigue management have been major points of contention in the bargaining process.