Canadian National Railway (CN) plans to lock out about 4,800 unionized employees across Canada starting Monday night (Feb. 23) unless their union agrees to arbitration for a new contract.
Montreal-based CN’s move follows Thursday’s announcement by Unifor — the union representing CN’s mechanical, intermodal and clerical workers — that it will hold a strike vote starting Monday over a period of up to three weeks, with a strike deadline close to the end of March.
“The differences separating the company and union are as clear as they will ever be, and they will not become any clearer over a month-long strike mandate process announced yesterday by Unifor,” CN CEO Claude Mongeau said Friday in a release.
“We cannot accept the uncertainty that Unifor’s month-long strike mandate process will create for our customers, our employees and the gateways we serve.”
Unless Unifor agrees over the weekend to “accept that binding arbitration is the best way to settle their outstanding contractual differences,” CN said it would start its lockout at 11 p.m. Monday.
Unifor had said Thursday it would set a strike deadline far enough out to allow CN customers to make “alternative arrangements” for their shipments.
While saying CN and the union “don’t need government intervention at this time,” Mongeau said Friday he still hopes Unifor will “sit down with CN over the weekend to reach either a negotiated settlement on the terms and conditions of employment for employees, or refer our dispute to binding arbitration.”
Unifor, whose last collective agreement with CN expired Dec. 31, said Friday the railway’s plans for a lockout have “clearly demonstrated that CN has no desire to negotiate.”
Unifor president Jerry Dias said Friday that CN last Sunday made its “one and only economic offer which did not take into account any of Unifor members’ concerns.”
Dias said in a release the company’s “unilateral” decision on a lockout “will surely have negative consequences.”
Unifor-represented CN staff, he noted, include those responsible for safety inspections and maintenance of all rail cars and locomotives. “Beyond the very valid concerns about the economy brought on by a sudden lockout — why isn’t CN considering the safety of Canadians?” he said. — AGCanada.com Network