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Rail News: Labor

Teamsters Canada Rail Conference issues 72-hour strike notice to CP


On Saturday, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) issued a 72-hour strike notice to Canadian Pacific that takes effect after midnight May 23 when a cooling-off period expires.

The union represents about 4,800 CP workers, including conductors, yardmen, locomotive engineers and rail traffic controllers. The parties have been negotiating since October 2011 to renew labor agreements that expired on Dec. 31, 2011.

Commuter trains operated by the WestCoast Express in Vancouver, British Columbia, GO Transit in Toronto and Agence métropolitaine de transport in Montreal might be interrupted by the work stoppage, TCRC officials said in a prepared statement.

“We wrote to CP yesterday indicating that we would continue operating the commuter train service on all the lines without disruption,” said TCRC Vice President Doug Finnson. “CP has written to us … indicating they will not operate commuter trains in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.”

On April 26, the TCRC announced that 95 percent of its CP members voted in favor of a strike. The major issues are work rules, fatigue management and the pension plan, which CP wants to cut by 40 percent, TCRC officials said.

But CP officials claim their contract offer presented to the union is “fair and reasonable.” The Class I, which contributed about $1.9 billion of solvency deficit contributions to its pension plan over the past three years, requires changes to legacy pension and post-retirement benefits to make them industry-comparable, CP officials said in a prepared statement. Some proposed amendments would provide a guaranteed pension payment that is a multiple of average Canadian industrial pension payment and would exceed what the TCRC already has agreed to for the majority of its members at another major Canadian railway, they said.

“The offer on pension aligns with the industry and allows the railway to remain competitive as we invest in strategic infrastructure upgrades along our network,” said Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer Mike Franczak.

If there is a work stoppage, the railroad will proceed with a safe and structured shut down of its operations in Canada, CP officials said.

“We are willing to enter into binding arbitration or negotiation period extensions should an agreement not be reached at this stage … [which] would ensure the continued operations of freight and commuter trains on CP's Canadian network,” said Franczak. “Any extension to the bargaining process requires consent of the union or action of the federal government.”

Meanwhile, Canadian Minister of Labor Lisa Raitt expressed concern that a work stoppage is being considered.
“I continue to encourage the Canadian Pacific Railway and TCRC to either reach a deal or agree to submit to a binding process to settle their dispute and avoid a work stoppage,” she said. “A disruption of rail services would have a significantly negative impact on businesses and our national economy.”