CN’s conductors serve strike notice

The unit of the Teamsters representing Canadian National Railway’s (CN) conductors and yard operations staff has served notice that its members may be walking the line come Tuesday morning.

Montreal-based CN said Saturday it had received 72-hour strike notice from the conductors’ unit of the Teamsters Canadian Rail Conference (TCRC), putting the unit in strike position starting at 4 a.m. ET Tuesday.

The unit’s most recent contract, settled in June 2014 through binding arbitration, expired last July.

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“We continue to negotiate in good faith with the assistance of a federally-appointed mediator in order to reach a fair agreement before the strike deadline,” chief operating officer Mike Cory said Saturday in a release.

CN, he said, is “also offering to resolve our differences through binding arbitration with a neutral arbitrator” and “remain(s) optimistic that we can reach an agreement without a labour disruption.”

“The company will try to paint themselves as victims, when in reality, they’re likely to provoke a strike for the sole purpose of having an arbitrator possibly grant concessions,” TCRC vice president and lead negotiator Roland Hackl said in a separate release Sunday.

“We’re doing everything we can to avoid a strike, and Teamster members expect the same from management.”

In a separate statement on the Teamsters’ website, Hackl said the union, company and mediators are now at “a critical stage and are going to catch a few hours’ sleep before starting again this afternoon to hopefully come to an agreement in principle.”

According to the TCRC, the railway wants concessions on a “wide range” of issues, “despite averaging $3 billion in annual profits since the last collective agreement.”

Over the weekend, the TCRC said, CN “served notice that it would unilaterally impose changes to the collective agreement that could permanently and irreparably impact workers. The union had no choice but to issue a strike notice in order to prevent this.”

In a separate notice to members Saturday, the union said the changes CN sought would allow the company to “unilaterally implement material changes — such as terminal closures, home terminal abolishments, mandatory relocations, or whatever else they want, with little to no ability for the union to negotiate any protections for the members.”

Affected TCRC members previously voted 98 per cent in favour of a strike mandate, the union had said in a separate notice last Thursday. — AGCanada.com Network

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