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Rail News: Canadian National Railway - CN

CN: New pact in place with Teamsters conference; line abandonment plan questioned by Unifor

CN announced late yesterday that it reached a new tentative three-year agreement with the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference-Conductors, Trainpersons and Yardpersons (TCRC-CTY), averting a potential strike.

The union — which represents about 3,000 of CN's train and yard operations employees in Canada — had issued a 72-hour strike notice to CN on Tuesday. Members were prepared to walk off the job shortly after midnight on Feb. 8.

Details of the new agreement were withheld pending ratification. Last week, TCRC-CTY members failed to ratify tentative agreements reached with CN in October 2013. Previous agreements between the parties expired in July 2013.

"We commend the leadership of the TCRC-CTY for reaching consensus with the company and averting a possible strike. This will ensure continued service to our customers in a very challenging environment where extreme winter conditions have hampered [our] operations and affected service levels," said Jim Vena, CN's executive vice president and chief operating officer, in a press release. "CN has offered to work closely with the union leadership to explain the terms of the agreement to union members over the next 45 days to help ensure a successful ratification of the agreement."

The Canadian government planned to introduce back-to-work legislation if a strike had occurred, said Canadian Labor Minister Kellie Leitch in a press release. A work stoppage would have had damaging effects on the nation's economy, with a total monetary impact estimated at up to $450 million per week, she said.

"Our government will not hesitate to put the interests of the economy and hard-working grain farmers and workers first," said Leitch. "I am pleased that the parties continued to make every effort to settle their differences."

Meanwhile, officials at Unifor — which represents 8,000 rail workers in Canada — earlier this week expressed disappointment that CN plans to abandon a 44-mile track segment in New Brunswick between Nelson Junction and Nepisquit Junction.

Unifor officials believe passenger-rail service in the region could be impacted and are calling for a public consultation before the segment is abandoned.

The middle portion and most significant part of CN's Newcastle Subdivision, the segment was not included in a freight-rail preservation agreement reached last month between the New Brunswick government and CN, meaning there will be no connection on the line between the Bathurst and Moncton areas, Unifor officials said in a press release.

"The decision by CN and the New Brunswick government could leave part of the province without adequate rail services, particularly on the Montreal-to-Halifax Ocean run," said Unifor National President Jerry Dias.

About half of the Ocean run's passenger traffic is generated north of Moncton. An abandonment could have "devastating effects" on VIA Rail Canada Inc.'s operations in eastern Canada, said Dias.

Unifor is calling on the federal government to provide funding and work with the affected provincial and municipal governments, CN and VIA Rail to ensure that the segment is maintained to keep passenger-rail services to New Brunswick and Quebec at current levels.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/6/2014