CN’s mechanics ratify four-year labour deal

Unionized mechanics and related staff at Canadian National Railway (CN) have formally voted in favour of four years’ labour peace with their employer.

The employees, who include mechanical and shopcraft workers, office and clerical staff and truck owner/operators who handle intermodal containers for a CN subsidiary, had reached tentative agreements with CN through their union, the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), on Jan. 24.

The agreement was reached with less than a day to spare before about 4,300 affected workers were scheduled to head out on strike. The CAW’s previous contract with Montreal-based CN had expired Dec. 31, 2010.

Ratification votes have been held since then across Canada for the employees, who according to CAW voted 82 per cent in favour of a four-year deal, retroactive to Jan. 1 and expiring Dec. 31, 2014.

CN, announcing the ratifications in a release Monday, did not disclose details of the agreements other than to say they “provide wage and benefit increases to CAW members” and “contain progressive provisions to help CN retain and attract skilled employees critical to its workforce in the years ahead.”

CAW, in a separate statement, said the agreements also provide for “increases to the health care spending account for retirees, a signing bonus and a number of other benefit and work life improvements.”

According to CAW, the shopcraft bargaining unit voted 80 per cent in favour of the deal, while related office, clerical and mechanical staff voted 87 per cent in favour and truck owner/operators working for CN subsidiary CNTL voted 79 per cent in favour.

“Securing a commitment from CN on apprenticeships and employee training was also critical in reaching the agreement and its approval,” CAW Local 100 president John Burns said in the union’s statement.

Federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt also hailed the ratifications in a release Monday, saying she “applaud(s) CN and CAW-Canada for reaching negotiated agreements without interruption to services.”

The dispute was settled with the help of mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, Raitt noted.

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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