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Back-to-work legislation planned against possible CN strike

cn strike 2009
CN's last work stoppage saw its Teamster-represented engineers walk the picket line in 2009. (File photo by Dave Bedard)

Canada’s Labour Minister Kellie Leitch said Wednesday the federal government plans to introduce back-to-work legislation to deal with a potential strike at Canadian National Railway (CN).

“Today, our Conservative government is taking action to protect Canada’s economy and Canadian grain farmers by indicating our intention to introduce legislation to make sure CN stays on track,” Reuters quoted Leitch saying at a news conference in Ottawa.

CN reported Wednesday morning it had received 72 hours’ notice from the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) that about 3,300 unionized CN staff will go on strike just after midnight Saturday (Feb. 8) at the earliest. [Related story]

The TCRC unit represents conductors, assistant conductors, baggage persons, car retarder operators, yard operations employees, switch tenders, traffic co-ordinators and assistant traffic co-ordinators, whose previous collective agreements expired last July 22.

The union said Wednesday it had “arrived at the conclusion that the rail carrier has no intention of abiding by the current collective agreement, namely with respect to fatigue management.”

“A collective agreement is a legal contract binding two parties,” Roland Hackl, the TCRC’s chief negotiator, said in a union release. “The employer can’t justify hundreds of violations a day by claiming bad weather. Our members have told us that they are under the impression that the employer has chosen to disregard what was negotiated in good faith by the parties.”

An agreement in principle last fall between CN and the Teamsters for a three-year deal was rejected by 61 per cent of the eligible staff who took part in the ratification vote, the union said. Overall turnout, below 50 per cent, was “pretty typical in these votes.”

“Our government is disappointed that the membership rejected the tentative agreements reached by the bargaining committee and that this matter has not been resolved,” Leitch said in a separate statement last Friday, after CN announced the previous deal had failed to ratify.

“I strongly encourage CN and the TCRC to resume negotiations and work together to reach new agreements as soon as possible. The best solution in any dispute is always the one that the parties reach themselves.”

CN last saw work stoppage in 2009, when the company’s TCRC-represented engineers went on strike for five days before agreeing to arbitration.

TCRC-represented engineers and conductors at Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) went on strike in 2012 for 10 days before the federal government legislated them back to work. — Network/Reuters

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