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CN, mechanics’ union reach last-minute agreement

Unionized mechanics and related staff at Canadian National Railway (CN) have reached a tentative agreement with the company, less than a day before a scheduled strike.

The workers, represented by four separate bargaining units of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), had notified the company Saturday that they planned to head out on strike starting at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

Details of Monday’s agreement won’t be released until it’s ratified in a series of employee votes over the next three weeks, according to the CAW, which has called off the strike in the meantime.

CN said Monday morning that the deal will provide “fair wage and benefit increases” as well as “progressive provisions that would help CN retain and attract skilled employees critical to its workforce in the years ahead.”

The agreement was reached early Monday morning following a “48-hour marathon negotiation session,” the union said in a release Monday.

The union said its master bargaining committees support the agreement, which it said will cover 4,300 CN mechanical and shopcraft workers, office and clerical staff and truck owner/operators who handle intermodal containers for a CN subsidiary.

Leaders of affected locals will review the deal in Montreal on Thursday (Jan. 27) before taking it to a series of ratification meetings, the union said.

CP still in talks

The CAW, which also represents about 2,100 locomotive and rail car repair and inspection staff at Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) in current contract talks, announced Jan. 13 that both its CN and CP members had set tentative strike dates.

The CP workers, through CAW Local 101, still have a strike deadline set for 12:01 a.m. on Feb. 8.

Calgary-based CP on Jan. 13 said it has trained about 1,200 managers and has a contingency plan in place to operate the railway in the event of a strike. CP also said it “remains optimistic for a negotiated settlement.”

Canadian grain growers, especially in the West where rail is needed to move most crops to port, have previously warned labour disputes and work stoppages can back crops up into on-farm storage and interfere with farmers’ cash flow.

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