Strike vote passes for CP engineers, conductors

Canadian Pacific Railway’s unionized conductors and engineers have voted to give themselves a trump card in talks with the company for a new contract.

Eligible employees voted 93 per cent in favour of strike action “if necessary” to reach a negotiated settlement with the company, according to their union, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC).

The union and company are in the middle of a 21-day “cooling-off” period, as per the Canada Labour Code, the TCRC said in a release Saturday. Past that period, a strike or lockout could begin as early as Sunday (Feb. 15).

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CP and union representatives are scheduled to hold bargaining meetings from Tuesday through Saturday in Montreal with federal mediators, the union said. The union said in November the sticking point remains “the question of how to manage worker fatigue.”

In the worst-case scenario, TCRC-represented conductors and engineers at CP and engineers at Canadian National Railway (CN) could be locked out or on strike by mid-month.

Contracts expired at the end of December for the 3,800 TCRC-represented staff at CP and 1,700 TCRC-represented staff at CN.

The union said last month its affected members at CN could be in a work stoppage in mid-February, barring an extension in conciliation talks.

CP and some of the railway’s other unions are similarly stalled in their negotiations, the TCRC said.

“CP has provoked confrontation with their unionized employees as often as they can, and their style of labour relations has resulted in the most massive contract rejection in the history of the railway industry,” TCRC president Douglas Finnson said in Saturday’s release.

Unionized conductors at CP-owned Soo Line recently voted 97 per cent against a contract proposal from CP negotiators, and Unifor-represented CP shop crafts staff and other mechanical workers also voted 97 per cent last month in favour of strike action, the TCRC said. — AGCanada.com Network

CLARIFICATION, Feb. 10, 2015: A previous version of this article suggested CN’s engineers and conductors could be in a strike or lockout by mid-month. Unlike at CP, CN’s conductors and yardpeople are represented by a separate Teamsters unit from its engineers.

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