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Rail News Home Canadian National Railway - CN

11/21/2019



Rail News: Canadian National Railway - CN

CN calls for binding arbitration to settle strike, Alberta calls on Trudeau to intervene


CN President and CEO JJ Ruest
Photo – cn.ca

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In its first public statement since more than 3,000 of its train conductors and rail-yard workers went on strike earlier this week, CN today advocated for voluntary binding arbitration to help settle the collective bargaining impasse between the Class I and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC-CTY).

In a statement posted on the company's website, CN President and Chief Executive Officer JJ Ruest said the company has offered to present its arguments to a neutral arbitrator to end the contract dispute, and hopes the TCRC-CTY will do the same.

"Through binding arbitration, a neutral arbitrator would hear our positions and make a decision," Ruest said.

Earlier this year, CN concluded 11 agreements with unions that represent 7,000 union members. In 10 of those ratified agreements, CN provided annual compensation adjustments better than inflation, Ruest noted.

"Moreover, while the current average salary of a Canadian conductor is $114,000 plus benefits, including a defined benefits pension plan, the union is seeking wage and benefit improvements beyond those negotiated this year with Unifor and another bargaining unit of the TCRC," he said.

Ruest also addressed what he said were TCRC-CTY claims that the strike is about safety issues. The union's statements do not reflect the discussions between the two parties, he said.

"For the safety concerns raised, we have proposed viable solutions because we want all employees to go home safely at the end of their shift," Ruest said.

CN also has offered to continue bargaining until April 1, 2020, to allow more time to come to an agreement, but the union declined, according to the statement.

"While we continue to negotiate, we understand the employees’ decision and respect their right to picket peacefully, safely, and in a manner that does not disrupt or delay our operations," said Ruest.

The statement also acknowledged the impact the strike, which began Nov. 19, is having on the company's employees, customers, the public and the Canadian economy.

Meanwhile, the Alberta government is calling on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to immediately recall Parliament to enact legislation to force CN employees to go back to work.

In a joint statement, Alberta Minister of Energy Sonya Savage and Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Devin Dreeshen noted that Parliament is not scheduled to return until Dec. 5.

"Unfortunately, even this short wait could result in serious damage not just to the Alberta economy, but to the Canadian economy as a whole,” they said.

Savage noted that CN regularly ships more than 170,000 barrels of Western Canadian oil per day.

"Any disruption in shipments would have serious consequences for an economy that is already dealing with severe bottlenecks due to cancelled and delayed pipelines. Alberta cannot see further restrictions on our ability to export our product," she said.

Alberta farmers depend on rail to get their product to market, said Dreeshen.

"We have seen the severe consequences of rail backlogs before," he said. "Farmers don’t need the added pain from compounding rail delays, especially after this difficult harvest. Now is the time to act."



Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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