Teamsters serve strike notice on CN

Teamster-led workers in contract talks with Canadian National Railway could be on the picket line as early as 12:01 a.m. ET Tuesday after serving strike notice on the company.

The Teamsters Canadian Rail Conference – Conductors, Trainpersons and Yardpersons (TCRC-CTY), which represents about 3,200 CN conductors and railyard co-ordinators in Canada, has served 72 hours’ strike notice, the company and union said separately Saturday.

The TCRC’s previous collective agreement with Montreal-based CN — a three-year deal which was also reached just hours ahead of a strike deadline — expired on July 23.

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The company and union have been in talks since May 21, according to the federal labour ministry.

“If a settlement cannot be reached this weekend, we will once again encourage the union leadership to accept binding arbitration as an alternative to disrupting the Canadian economy,” CN chief operating officer Rob Reilly said in a release. “We remain committed to constructive talks to reach an agreement without a work stoppage.”

The TCRC, in a separate release, said it “hopes to reach a negotiated settlement that its members can ratify, and to move forward without a service disruption.”

The Teamsters cited worker safety and hours and proposed prescription drug plan changes among outstanding issues. Wages, the union said, “are not a major sticking point” in the talks.

“Rather than reaching an agreement at the bargaining table, CN is intent on submitting these issues and more to binding arbitration,” the union said. “By resolving its differences with the union through arbitration, the company hopes to achieve gains that could not have otherwise been made by negotiating in good faith.”

Despite the serving of strike notice, “I am encouraged to see that both parties are still negotiating,” federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu said in a separate statement Saturday.

Hajdu said she and Transport Minister Marc Garneau “have reached out to both parties to encourage them to continue these negotiations and reach agreements.”

Federal mediators have been “working closely with the parties since June” and are “currently meeting with them to help them reach agreements,” she added.

CN, the union said, “currently requires TCRC members to operate trains alone from outside of the locomotive, hanging on to moving trains with one hand while operating a remotely controlled locomotive with the other.”

Railroaders, the union said, “are expected to do this in rain and in freezing temperatures, sometimes for distances of up to about 17 miles… and the company has refused to come to a satisfactory agreement at the negotiations table to adjust their operating practices in the interest of safety.”

CN, the union said, “also wants to make it more difficult to take time off and make employees work longer hours, in an attempt to get more work done with fewer people and to reduce staffing levels.”

“CN is telling our members that they are facing tough times, but the reality is that they made over $3.8 billion in the third quarter of 2019,” TCRC president Lyndon Isaak said in the union’s release. “They should be ashamed to be pleading poverty.”

CN on Oct. 22 reported gross revenue of $3.83 billion for its quarter ending Sept. 30, up from $3.69 billion in the year-earlier period. It booked net income of $1.195 billion for the quarter, up from $1.134 billion in last year’s Q3.

CN at the time said its increased revenue for the quarter “was mainly due to freight rate increases and higher intermodal revenues.” — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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