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Nova Scotia short line's workers strike, seek BLE-supported contract


After a year-long effort to install Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers as their collective-bargaining representative, 34 locomotive engineers and conductors Feb. 6 walked off the job at RailAmerica Inc. subsidiary Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway (CBNS).
The workers in October 2000 elected BLE as their designated representative, and in early 2001 began negotiations with BLE, CBNS and RailAmerica officials to develop a contract, said BLE Special Representative Robert Toole in a statement prepared Feb. 8.
After failing to reach an agreement, BLE officials asked a provincial conciliator to provide negotiation assistance, but the parties still couldn't agree on a contract.
BLE then, in August, asked for and received a strike mandate from union members while BLE's bargaining committee continued to negotiate with CBNS officials.
The 245-mile short line's officials Jan. 21 made a contract offer BLE's committee didn't support, which led to the strike.
The striking workers are seeking an agreement on seniority, work schedules, wages, rest crew consist, material changes in working conditions, vacations, pensions, training and spare boards.
The workers set up picket lines at the short line's Stellarton, Nova Scotia, headquarters, and in Sydney and Port Hawkesbury.
"CBNS plans to continue serving its customers in the best manner possible during this strike," says Wayne August, RailAmerica assistant vice president of investor relations.
The short line annually hauls about 26,000 carloads of limestone, lumber, grain and scrap metal throughout Nova Scotia.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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