The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, which represents about 3,300 conductors, trainmen, yardmen and traffic coordinators at Canadian National, is gearing up for a strike or lockout in its relations with the Class I railroad on Oct. 28.
Ongoing talks, following the expiration of the union members’ contract on July 22, broke down between the two parties on Oct. 7. The negotiations are now in an automatic 21-day “cooling off” period.
The Teamsters union said it offered to extend the mediation period, but CN’s management rejected the proposal.
“We’re extremely disappointed by CN’s refusal (to extend the mediation period),” said Roland Hackl, TCRC spokesperson, in a written statement. “The railway uses an old tactic: pointing a gun to its workers’ heads to force them to make concessions.”
However, CN told the JOC that the two sides are scheduled to resume collective bargaining on Oct. 21, with the help of the federally appointed mediators who were part of the original conciliation process.
The Teamsters union said it did not take issue with wages and the retirement plan in this bargaining round, but talks were stalled because of concessions that it said would require CN employees to work longer hours with less rest time in between trips. The union cited issues with safety, specifically scientific research on fatigue management and the recent Lac-Mégantic derailment, as the main reasons for its rejection of the new contract.
“CN’s managers have to walk the walk and talk the talk; they have to understand that people are not machines and that you should never place profits before people,” Hackl said.
CN’s Mark Hallman, director of communications and public affairs, said company policy does not permit him to comment on any specifics of the contract talks, but he said that the contract would not “in any way compromise the health and safety of TCRC members.” He also noted that CN believes the contract would actually “positively affect the health and safety of employees.”
Hallman also mentioned that CN remains “optimistic” that the talks will be resolved before the strike could occur later this month.