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CN conductors may strike Saturday at earliest

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

The union for Canadian National Railway’s (CN) conductors, trainmen and yardmen has filed notice that its workers may hit the bricks by Saturday (Feb. 8) at the earliest.

CN reported Wednesday morning it had received 72 hours’ notice from the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) of its intention to have about 3,000 unionized CN staff on strike just after midnight Saturday.

“Unfortunately, after only two days of discussions following the news that the Teamsters union had failed to ratify tentative agreements reached last October, the TCRC-CTY suddenly served a 72-hour strike notice to CN Tuesday evening,” CN chief operating officer Jim Vena said Wednesday. [Related story]

Vena said the company plans to return to the negotiating table Wednesday “with the assistance of federal mediators ,and will decide our next steps at the end of the day if we fail to reach an agreement with the union.”

A Teamsters spokesperson was not immediately available Wednesday morning.

However, TCRC general chairman Roland Hackl told Reuters transportation reporter Susan Taylor earlier Wednesday that the strike notice is considered “more of a tool to put a little bit of pressure on the company to get them serious.”

The company “is once again trying to get us to make concessions that would see our members work longer hours, be onboard the trains, have less rest time between each trip and perform more work when alone,” Hackl said in September, shortly before CN and union representatives reached their ill-fated agreement. [Related story]

The TCRC-represented conductors and other workers’ last contract expired in July 2013.

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.

A spokesperson for federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt was also not immediately available Wednesday morning to discuss the possibility of back-to-work legislation in this case.

A work stoppage at CN would be inopportune at best for Prairie grain farmers, already facing a backlog for thousands of rail cars needed to move a record-level 2013 crop out of the region, ships waiting for the crop to arrive at West Coast terminals and competition for rail space against substantial increases in commodities such as petroleum and intermodal traffic. –– Network

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