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Rail News: Labor

UTU-Canada strike at CN likely to linger into next week


Unless a contract is negotiated in the meantime, United Transportation Union-Canada’s strike against Canadian National Railway Co. will carry on through the weekend. The strike began shortly after midnight Feb. 10.

On Monday, the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) will continue a hearing on CN’s application to declare the strike illegal. The hearing began yesterday, but was postponed until Feb. 19.

CN officials claim UTU-Canada did not have “proper authority” from United Transportation Union International — the certified bargaining agent of UTU members employed at the railroad — to issue a strike. Earlier this week, UTU International President Paul Thompson acknowledged that four UTU-Canada general chairpersons “intentionally ignored” an article in the union’s constitution that requires formal action by a UTU International general committee prior to issuing a strike.

However, UTU-Canada officials assert the international union’s constitution can’t supersede the Canadian labor code, so the strike is legal.

“Although we vehemently disagree with the position taken by the International and CN with respect to who is the bargaining agent, given that position we are unable to return to the bargaining table until [CIRB] renders their decision,” UTU-Canada officials said in prepared statement. “During the hearings, we offered to return to the trains and commit to returning to the table if [CN] agreed that there would be no penalties or discipline. The company declined.”

For now, CN managers continue to perform the tasks of striking workers. UTU-Canada represents 2,800 of the railroad’s conductors and yard-service employees in Canada. The railroad and union are maintaining normal commuter-rail operations on CN lines in Toronto and Montreal.

Contract negotiations between CN and UTU-Canada broke off Feb. 9 because of a disagreement over wage increases. The previous three-year contract expired Dec. 31.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/14/2007