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7/25/2003



Rail News: Labor

BC Rail union schedules strike vote to save jobs, provincial ownership




On Aug. 7, Council of Trade Unions on BC Rail expects to begin conducting a strike vote because a "job action may represent the last chance of keeping BC Rail publicly owned in British Columbia and serving northern communities instead of being sold to American or eastern Canadian railway companies, with massive job losses," according to a July 24 prepared statement.


"This strike vote isn’t about wages or working conditions or benefits — it’s about saving BC Rail," said Council Chairman Bob Sharpe.


Last month, negotiations between the union and 1,400-mile regional broke down after the railroad rejected the council's proposal, which included a three-year collective agreement including no wage increases, bonuses or layoffs. Labor savings could be used to return passenger-rail service to BC Rail, as well as improve infrastructure and pay down debt, union officials believe.


"Instead, the provincial government is considering bids from four railway bidders that confidential BC Rail documents say would result in job losses of half to two-thirds of the workforce of 1700, service cuts and rate increases," union officials said.


British Columbia's government previously announced Canadian National Railway Co., Canadian Pacific Railway, RailAmerica Inc. and a Burlington Northern Santa Fe/OmniTRAX Inc. partnership as the short-listed bidders.


The union estimates BC Rail job losses of between 758 and 1,232 union and non-union positions based on an analysis of CN's, CPR's and OmniTRAX's operations. The union didn't study RailAmerica.


"We have enormous support right across BC for this railway to remain owned by the people of this province," said Sharpe.


The union plans to conduct the strike vote in communities along BC Rail's line and conclude voting Aug. 18.



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