Canadian National Railway Co said late Tuesday afternoon that it still hopes to negotiate a new deal with the Teamsters union and avoid a labour disruption, after talks assisted by government-appointed mediators stretched into the early morning.
Canada's largest railway and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference union, which represents some 3,300 conductors and other workers, are now in a legal position for a strike or lockout after providing 72 hours notice. Neither side has yet served notice.
A strike or lockout would disrupt movement of autos, grain, coal, crude oil and a variety of other goods across Canada.
"CN and the (union) are continuing labour negotiations today with the on-going assistance of mediators appointed by the federal minister of labour," said CN spokesman Mark Hallman.
"CN remains optimistic that it can negotiate a settlement with the (union) to avoid labour disruption in Canada."
Talks continued until 3 a.m. EDT (0700 GMT) on Tuesday, Teamsters spokesman and bargaining team member Roland Hackl told Reuters. After a short break, talks resumed later on Tuesday morning, he said.
The union has said work rule issues are a sticking point, with CN demanding concessions that would force members to work longer hours with less rest time between trips, for example. CN says none of its proposals would compromise worker health or safety.
The Canadian government has been quick to intervene in other recent labour disputes. Last May, it used legislation to force 4,800 striking locomotive engineers and conductors back to work at Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd, the country's No. 2 rail operator.
Labour Minister Kellie Leitch is monitoring the situation and has encouraged both sides to come to an agreement, a spokeswoman said.