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UTU members support CN strike if labor agreement stalls


A vast majority — about 90 percent — of the 4,500 United Transportation Union-represented conductors and yard workers at Canadian National Railway Co. Nov. 23 voted to strike CN's Canadian freight operations if a new labor agreement isn't soon reached.
"CN's management philosophy — the beatings will continue until morale improves — is not working," said UTU Vice President Guy Scarrow in a prepared statement. "We have a determined group of workers who are willing to fight to improve working conditions."
CN's and UTU's latest three-year agreement expired in December 2000. UTU workers are seeking retroactive pay and a compliance incentive clause designed to set fines if CN management violates the agreement.
Under Canada's labor code, a strike/lockout deadline was Nov. 21; UTU officials claim both parties are negotiating a service maintenance agreement.
CN officials believe a strike is not imminent since any work stoppage would have to be authorized by Canada Industrial Relations Board: "We remain optimistic," said CN spokesman Mark Hallman.
UTU officials plan to maintain passenger rail services in Toronto, Montreal and other remote areas during any strike. But union officials believe CN's overall freight operations would be crippled by a strike since a majority of the Class I's revenues rely on cross-border U.S. traffic.
UTU's last strike against CN (in 1995) was halted by back-to-work legislation.