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Rail News: Labor

CP, Teamsters turn to binding arbitration to end strike; CN, Teamsters reach tentative pact


Over the three-day holiday weekend, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) launched and ended a brief strike against Canadian Pacific, while CP reached a tentative labor agreement with Unifor and CN negotiated a tentative pact with the TCRC.

CP and TCRC yesterday agreed agreed to enter into binding arbitration, ending a strike the union launched shortly after midnight on Sunday after the parties failed to reach a new labor agreement. The work stoppage — which officially ended this morning to allow an organized start up to operations — involved about 3,000 TCRC-represented locomotive engineers and conductors.

The Canadian government was readying back-to-work legislation to bring an end to the strike if it continued for an extended period.

"This decision ensures both sides will get back to the table, and gets us back to moving Canada's economy forward," said CP Chief Executive Officer E. Hunter Harrison in a press release. "While we would have preferred a negotiated settlement, this is the right thing to do at this time."

An arbitrator will be appointed by the federal government. The parties are releasing no further details on negotiations at this time.

"We took this strike action to improve the quality of life and the working conditions for our membership. Our preference is to negotiate these improvements through collective bargaining, and the worst thing that could happen is a legislated process," said TCRC President Doug Finnson in a statement. "These issues are far too important to our members to have a legislated process decide the issue. Consequently, the better option is to use a fair mediation and arbitration dispute resolution in front of an independent arbitrator, where we can demonstrate that our plan is a proven fatigue management system which is highly regarded for a long time and is far superior to what the employer seeks to obtain."

Mining Association of Canada (MAC) officials welcomed the news about what they characterized as "an efficient solution" to the work stoppage. The strike's end will ensure the continued movement of Canadian mining products to customers worldwide and protect Canadian jobs, MAC officials said in a statement.

"The mining industry is the most significant customer of Canada's Class I railways, consistently accounting for both the majority of rail freight revenues generated each year, and the largest volume carried annually," they said. "The vast majority of this volume is shipped to international customers, together accounting for approximately 20 percent of the total value of Canada's exports."

Meanwhile, CP on Saturday announced it reached a tentative four-year agreement with Unifor, which also had issued a strike notice to the Class I last week. Details of the pact are being withheld pending ratification by Unifor members. The union represents 1,200 CP mechanical employees who maintain rail cars and locomotives.

Also on Saturday, CN announced it negotiated a tentative agreement with TCRC, which represents 1,800 of the railroad's locomotive engineers in Canada. Details of the tentative settlement are being withheld pending ratification by union members. TCRC expects to announce the results of a ratification vote by mid-April.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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