“The most important issue in these talks is the
health and safety of the workers and of people living near
After only a few days of
bargaining, it seems that the Canadian National Railway Company (CN) is
bent on provoking its workers to launch a strike, regardless of the
insistence of the union to pursue discussions.
Negotiations broke down last
Friday and the company refuses to offer its formal proposal to the
workers’ Negotiations Committee. Moreover, no further dates of
discussions are scheduled and the company refused an extension of the
In fact, CN wants to use the
Labour Code to impose a settlement on the parties rather than bargain by
mutual agreement with the union of some 2700 conductors, yardmen and
traffic coordinators. CN workers are represented by the Teamsters Canada
Rail Conference (TCRC).
The union believes that Canadian
National wants the Government to quickly assign an arbitrator to the
case, thus disabling the normal bargaining process. These discussions
started last May, as the collective agreement ended in July.
There were only six days of actual bargaining before CN requested
“We have hardly begun
discussions before the employer wants to end them,” explains Bryan
Boechler, spokesperson for the TCRC Negotiations Committee. “And we all
know that it takes two to tango.”
The health and safety of the workers and of the
population are at stake
The rail company is proposing
modifications to eliminate all provisions pertaining to the rest period
by arguing that they are outdated. The workers could therefore be forced
to work 24 of 32 hours, and then re-start this cycle 8 hours later. The
union believes that this proposal will increase the risk of accidents.
“Let us be clear: the most
important issue in these talks is the health and safety of the workers
and of people living near railroads,” explains Bryan Boechler,
spokesperson for the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference. “My worries are
based on my experience on the field, not on a bogus theory put forth by
some managers of the company.”
The conflict looming on the
horizon therefore strangely resembles the prevailing situation between
the locomotive engineers and the company in December of 2009.
CN had wanted to unilaterally change the working conditions of
the locomotive engineers, which brought about a strike. The health and
safety of the workers and of the public were also at the core of the
The union had no other choice
but to send a strike vote by mail to its members. The results are
expected sometime between now and the end of September. A walkout or a
lockout could therefore take place in the Fall.
“We feel that they will lock us
out or force a strike in order to have the Government order arbitration,
adds Boechler. We invite the company to return to the bargaining table
with an open attitude instead.“
In closing, CN reports profits
of $1.26 billion in 2009.
This company operates a transcontinental network of 28,200 km that
serves several Canadian provinces and American states. It crosses all of
Canada from East to West between Nova-Scotia and British Columbia; from
North-South, it crosses the United States between the region of the
Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico.
The Teamsters Union represents 125,000 members in Canada in all
trades. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with which Teamsters
Canada is affiliated, has 1.4
million members in North America.
The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference represents more
than 14,000 workers in all trades of the rail industry throughout the
Bryan Boechler, Teamsters Canada
Cell phone: (780) 691-3008
Director of Communications, Teamsters Canada
Cell phone: (514) 609-5101
Office: (450) 682-5521 x236