Work stoppage possible for CN engineers in mid-February

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

The union for engineers on Canadian National Railway’s (CN) trains warns a work stoppage could come as early as mid-February barring progress in talks with the company.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) said Thursday CN has “refused” to extend conciliation talks, now due to end Saturday, by another 60 days. The engineers’ last collective agreement with the company expired Jan. 1.

Without an extension, the union said, a work stoppage by the 1,700 affected employees could occur as soon as a mandatory 21-day “cooling-off” period ends.

“While negotiations are ongoing, we believe that more time is required to address the significant issues and concerns the TCRC is facing,” Roland Hackl, chairman of the TCRC’s general committee for CN staff in Western Canada, said in a release.

“We are concerned that CN is once again attempting to run the clock out and rely on government intervention,” he said. The federal government has passed back-to-work legislation in “virtually all” cases of unresolved labour conflict between CN and its unionized workers, the union said.

CN’s TCRC-represented engineers last went on strike for five days in 2009 before agreeing to arbitration, under threat of back-to-work legislation. The CN engineers ratified a subsequent three-year agreement with the company in early 2012.

This time, the union said Thursday, it had proposed and CN refused a new bargaining process in which the union and company would have to pay “predetermined amounts” to charities in lieu of strike action or a lockout.

The process would have also required CN to reach an agreement with the Teamsters “without government interference,” Hackl said.

In current talks, the union said, one of the major “sticking points” is CN’s demand for removal of “all rest provisions that allow our members to manage fatigue.”

The union had said in 2012 that the engineers’ now-expired collective agreement had “improved” clauses related to rest time.

CN did not release any official statement Thursday.

The Montreal-based company last week announced it reached a tentative four-year deal with a separate TCRC committee representing its 180 rail traffic controllers in Canada. Results of a ratification vote are due by the end of next month. — Network


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