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Rail-traffic controllers union begins CPR strike


At midnight on June 18 — the end of a legally mandated cooling-off period — more than 200 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers-Rail Canada Traffic Controllers (BLE-RCTC) members began walking the picket line at Canadian Pacific Railway.

The union is seeking a pay scale similar to rail-traffic controllers employed by Canadian National Railway Co., and work-rule and benefit-package changes.

"The BLE-RCTC offered what we thought was a fair and equitable
agreement, similar to that on Canadian National, and we are extremely
disappointed in the carrier's response," said BLE International President Don Hahs in a prepared statement.

In September 2002, BLE-RCTC and CPR began negotiations. In March
2003, the union filed for conciliation because negotiations had stalled. The government appointed a conciliator, and the parties had until May 27 to reach an agreement.

On June 6, the union notified CPR of its intent to strike and the railroad sent BLE-RCTC a lockout notice; on June 14, a federally appointed mediator attempted to negotiate a settlement, but the union rejected CPR's latest offer, the railroad said.

The Class I has presented two offers to BLE-RCTC and both have been rejected, says CPR spokesperson Darcie Park.

"We're willing to return to the negotiating table if we believe there's a chance of making progress," she says.

But the railroad hasn't yet presented a legitimate offer, union officials believe.

"We have labor board charges pending against Canadian Pacific for failure to bargain in good faith," said BLE-RCTC General Chairman Jim Ruddick. "We allege that since negotiations began, the company has promoted an inordinate number of our members into management positions in an attempt to undermine our union, [and] is training former rail-traffic controllers, who voluntarily left some time ago, [to replace striking workers]."

On June 15, CPR announced that rail-traffic control managers would staff the railroad's Calgary, Alberta, and Montreal control centers — which oversee train operations within designated network sections — if a strike occurred. All managers have past experience and have been re-qualified to assume rail-traffic control duties, CPR said.

"We had a smooth handoff Tuesday night to manager RTCs and there's been no significant service disruptions so far," says Park.

Jeff Stagl

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/19/2003