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Rail News: Labor

UTU-Canada rejects offer to resume bargaining and end strike, CN says; deal limits ability to resume picketing, union says

United Transportation Union-Canada workers could be back on the job if the union hadn’t turned down Canadian National Railway Co.’s offer to resume collective bargaining and return to work, CN officials said in a statement released yesterday.

The railroad offered to resume bargaining on Feb. 19; withdraw its application to the Canada Industrial Relations Board to declare the strike illegal; drop legal action against the general chairmen and others seeking damages; guarantee no discipline of union members, except those accused of misconduct and/or illegal activities related to the strike; and establish a reasonable cooling-off period for renewed bargaining, CN said.

In return, the Class I sought an agreement from UTU-Canada to withdraw its authorization of the strike and strike notice, recognize the validity of the existing strike vote for 63 days commencing on Feb. 19 and issue a 72-hour strike notice prior to the cooling-off period’s end.

“It's truly unfortunate that the UTU bargaining team has declined CN’s offer — an offer aimed at settling this regrettable strike as soon as possible,” said CN President and Chief Executive Officer E. Hunter Harrison. “We will maintain this state of affairs for as long as it takes to reach a reasonable settlement.”

However, UTU-Canada officials refused to accept a 60-plus-day limitation on resuming a strike if negotiations bogged down again, the union said.

“The negotiating team was prepared to enter into a return to work agreement and return to the negotiating table,” UTU-Canada officials said in a prepared statement. “[But] the union was not, and is not, prepared to limit the rights of our members not to return to strike action should the company continue, in our view, to frustrate collective bargaining.”

Contract negotiations between CN and UTU-Canada — which represents 2,800 CN conductors and yard-service workers in Canada — broke off Feb. 9 because of a disagreement over wage increases. The previous three-year contract expired Dec. 31. The union issued a strike shortly after midnight Feb. 10.

CN managers continue to perform the tasks of striking workers. The railroad and union are maintaining normal commuter-rail operations on CN lines in Toronto and Montreal during the job action.

Late yesterday, CN unveiled a new section on its Web site,, which offers perspectives on strike issues. UTU-Canada provides ongoing strike information at

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More News from 2/16/2007