Unionized mechanical services staff at Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) have voted in favour of labour peace with the company through to the end of 2014.
About 2,100 shopcraft staff, represented by the Canadian Auto Workers, voted 82 per cent in favour of a new four-year collective agreement at membership meetings over the past two weeks, the union said in a release Thursday.
The vote formalizes a tentative deal that CAW Local 101, which represents Calgary-based CP’s locomotive and rail car repair personnel, had reached with the company three days before a scheduled strike date of Feb. 8.
“It was a difficult set of negotiations, particularly given the demographics and varying needs of the membership, ranging from new hires to those heading into retirement,” Local 101 president Tom Murphy said in the union’s release. “We were ultimately successful in meeting a great number of these needs.”
However, the union noted, the staff in question still face the “pending closure” of one of their workplaces, the Ogden Shops in Calgary.
CP had sold the facility to French rail equipment giant Alstom in 2001 and rented workspace and equipment on a long-term lease from Alstom for about 500 CP employees.
To “lessen the impact” on workers at the Ogden facility, the union said it negotiated retirement incentives, severance programs and “work opportunities” at CP’s Alyth yards, also in Calgary.
The renewed deal also includes increases in wages, benefits, retirement incentives and “language improvements around work rules and skilled trades,” the union said.
“This was a challenging round of negotiations and I believe the deal we reached with CP makes important improvements in the work lives of our members,” CAW national president Ken Lewenza said.
The CP staff’s ratification comes about a week after CAW-represented bargaining units at Canadian National Railway (CN) finished voting in favour of their own four-year deal, also narrowly avoiding a scheduled strike.
Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, in a separate release Thursday, praised the company and union “for reaching a negotiated agreement without interruption to services.”
Grain growers, especially on the Prairies where rail is needed to move most crops to port, have previously warned labour disputes and work stoppages on Canada’s railways can back crops up into on-farm storage and interfere significantly with farmers’ cash flow.