CN conductors again reject tentative labour deal

File photo of a Teamster-represented engineers’ picket at CN in 2009. (File photo by Dave Bedard)

Canadian National Railway (CN) wants binding arbitration after its unionized conductors and yardmen narrowly voted to reject a second tentative labour agreement.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), representing about 3,000 CN conductors, trainpersons, yardpersons and traffic co-ordinators working in Canada, reported Thursday its members had voted down the deal, reached Feb. 5, by a count of 852 to 891, with 64 per cent of members returning ballots.

The Feb. 5 agreement was reached under the threat of federal back-to-work legislation, which Labour Minister Kellie Leitch pledged after the Teamsters handed in their formal strike notice. [Related story]

A previous tentative agreement, reached last October between CN and the union, also failed to pass a ratification vote.

The union’s national negotiating committee, in a memo Thursday to members, noted that CN, just before the ballots were counted, had proposed a “final offer selection process to settle outstanding issues” if the second agreement didn’t pass the vote.

However, after the ballots were counted, the committee said, CN “has since advised us that they do not intend to meet with us for further negotiations unless it is to discuss conditions of arbitration.”

CN CEO Claude Mongeau, in a separate release Thursday, said the union is “now studying our proposal” for binding arbitration, and the company has asked for a response from the TCRC by closing time Friday (March 21).

“We hope the union will accept it in the current circumstances, given that CN’s recovery from extraordinary winter weather that hampered operations is in its early stages,” Mongeau said Thursday. [Related story]

“A labour dispute now would ill serve CN’s customers, the Canadian economy or the company’s employees.”

Leitch, in a separate release Friday, said she urged both CN and the Teamsters “to consider the best interests of all Canadians and avoid a work stoppage by sending their outstanding issues to voluntary arbitration.”

The TCRC-represented conductors’ 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. — Network

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