CN, conductors agree to talks, possible arbitration

Having voted down two negotiated deals in the past six months, unionized conductors, trainmen and yardmen with Canadian National Railway (CN) have agreed to go to binding arbitration with the company if need be.

CN on Saturday said the workers have agreed to a “last chance” offer to enter negotiations for a contract settlement, “on the condition that final and binding arbitration will apply if the parties cannot reach agreement.”

The pledge essentially assures the 3,000-odd affected employees, represented by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), will not pull the trigger on a strike mandate they’ve had in hand since past month.

“With a process assuring contractual certainty, CN and the Teamsters can continue working on the company’s recovery from an extraordinarily cold winter that hampered operations, and help our valued customers across Canada get their goods to market,” CN CEO Claude Mongeau said in a statement Saturday evening. [Related story]

CN, he said, “will meet the union next week to re-engage the discussion.”

CN had made its offer to the union Friday, saying that “in the current circumstances, we must move forward with an approach that will provide certainty of outcome for our employees, customers and other stakeholders.”

The TCRC-represented conductors’ last contract with CN expired in July 2013.

A tentative deal, reached last October between CN and the union, failed to pass a ratification vote. A second agreement, reached Feb. 5 under the threat of federal back-to-work legislation, also failed to ratify, by a margin of 39 votes. [Related story]

Federal Labour Minister Kellie Leitch on Saturday “congratulated” CN and the TCRC for going back to the bargaining table, saying “the best solution is always the one that parties reach themselves.”

The ministry, she said, “will continue to provide the parties with the support and assistance of mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) to help them resolve their labour dispute.” — Network


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