Our number 19 story of the year is the CN Rail strike that started on November 19th.
Over three thousand CN Rail conductors, train persons and yard persons went on the strike that lasted eight days.
At issue were concerns over safety, work schedules, as well as the company's proposed changes to prescription drug coverage.
The strike heavily affected farmers who were already suffering from a bad harvest with many still getting their crops off the field in late November and some still unfinished in December.
Jim Wickett is chair of the Wheat Growers, and farms near Rosetown. He said the strike eliminated more than 50 percent of rail shipping, including finished products such as canola oil and fertilizer.
"The CN system is shut down right now for freight," said Wickett. "So if you're on a CN line you're not going to see any movement. Elevators fill up, then once they're full, they're full. So delivery opportunities will be rare."
Wickett said CN averages between five and six thousand carload unloads a week, which is the equivalent of 15,000 truck loads.
Teamsters Canada announced on November 25th that a tentative agreement had been reached with CN Rail.
Premier Scott Moe jumped in to say that this was absolutely a positive for Saskatchewan and our export industries that rely on our rail service for transportation.
"I think it's a sigh of relief for the entire nation. That is not saying that there aren't going to be some dragging consequences from the week shut down that we had. We will have challenges in agriculture, in the potash industry, and in our industries that are so reliant on moving this product out, as we are behind the eight ball now."
Fast forward to mid-December, CN Rail reported they're back on track with Canadian grain movement after the strike.
CN Rail Executive Vice-President, Corporate Services and Chief Legal Officer, Sean Finn, says they returned to pre-strike pace quicker than they thought, attributing the recovery to the hard work of their employees and their $7.4 billion investment over the last few years.
"Eight days of slow down of our network to below 10 percent [operating] levels, if we can turn this around quickly, it's because we have that capacity and resilience to do so. The weather was on our side, but it does show that those investments in capital, in locomotives and in track have allowed us to recover a lot quicker."
Finn said the secret has been to create lots of fluidity in the network while not creating congestion in their yards.
The rail company said in a statement, they spotted 6,800 hopper cars per week during the first two weeks of November before the strike, despite a slow start to harvest due to adverse weather.
CN Rail points to this as the high point of the crop year but says the strike prevented the rail company from accepting any new orders as they were only operating at about 10 percent of overall capacity during the strike.
CN Rail transports more than $250 billion worth of goods annually.