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Rail News: Labor

CN offers CAW three options to end strike; union rejects two of the proposals

Yesterday, Canadian National Railway Co. officials presented Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) representatives three options to resolve their labor dispute and end a nearly four-week-old strike.

The options include a good-faith cooling-off period during which striking employees would return to work while CN and the union resume negotiations; binding arbitration; or CAW agreeing to submit a final offer for a ratification vote.

CN and the union reached an agreement on Jan. 23 that would provide annual wage and benefit increases of 3.5, 3.1 and 3.1 percent in 2004, 2005 and 2006, respectively, but CAW now is asking the railroad to raise those benefits 25 percent, CN officials said in a prepared statement.

"The CAW [has] responded with a series of demands that would significantly increase CN's settlement costs. Faced with excessive demands, the company deemed the negotiations to have reached a stalemate," they said. "There is no economic basis to justify such an increase. CN has demonstrated the willingness to compromise, but it is not in a position to accept these demands."

The union rejects CN's first two options, but is open to option No. 3, said Gary Fane, CAW director of transportation and the union's chief negotiator.

"We haven't yet seen CN's new enhanced offer. Once we do, our bargaining committee will decide the next step," he said.

On March 7, CN broke off negotiations after two days of talks had brought the parties closer to a new settlement, Fane said.

CAW — which represents 5,000 CN intermodal, customer service and shopcraft employees — initiated a strike Feb. 20 after union representatives rejected the tentative agreements reached in January and efforts to negotiate new agreements failed. Previous contracts expired Dec. 31, 2003.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/11/2004