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Rail News: Labor

BC Rail union opts to set aside strike mandate, return to bargaining table


Council of Trade Unions on BC Rail officials recently decided to set aside favorable strike-vote results in order to continue negotiating with executives of the 1,400-mile regional, which is up for sale.

Sixty-one percent of union members who submitted a vote approved a job action, "but the council was concerned that work scheduling and vacation conflicts resulted in a low membership turnout," said union Chairman Bob Sharpe in a prepared statement. "We knew summer would be a difficult time to reach our membership that works from North Vancouver to Fort Nelson, but the rapid sale of this company left us with little choice."

On Aug. 7, the union began conducting strike votes after the railroad rejected the council's last proposal — which included a three-year collective agreement including no wage increases, bonuses or layoffs — and negotiations broke down, union officials said. Voting closed Aug. 18.

The union estimates BC Rail job losses of between 758 and 1,232 union and non-union positions if the railroad is sold, based on an analysis of bidders.

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

On Sept. 5, union officials plan to meet BC Rail executives at Canada's Labour Relations Board to continue negotiations.
"Hopefully, this next round of bargaining will provide us with more information and results before we return to the membership," said Sharpe.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/29/2003