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4/17/2007



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

CN to seek regional agreements with striking UTU-Canada workers; labor minister to again pursue back-to-work legislation



After Saturday’s five-hour negotiating session proved fruitless, Canadian National Railway Co. executives are convinced the “bargaining process is broken” and the railroad will not be able to hammer out a national collective agreement with United Transportation Union-Canada officials, according to a CN statement released yesterday. Instead, the Class I will seek to negotiate regional settlements with factions of striking workers.

Canadian Labor Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn also is certain negotiations — which have dragged on for eight months — have reached an impasse and is trying to revive back-to-work legislation the government proposed in February after the union launched the strike.

However, only bargaining will resolve issues between the parties, UTU-Canada officials believe.

“If the government is serious about getting things on track at CN, then they should tell CN to get serious about bargaining with the UTU,” said UTU Vice President John Armstrong in a prepared statement.

The railroad will bargain, but only to negotiate individual agreements by “focusing on regional common interests,” CN officials said.

“One faction of the UTU is reporting for work, awaiting the outcome of the raid application by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference pending before the Canada Industrial Relations Board, [and] another faction is engaging in rotating withdrawals of service,” CN officials said. “In light of the continuing internal conflicts within the UTU, CN believes it’s increasingly clear that the union today is unable to deliver a national negotiated settlement that its members across Canada would ratify.”

UTU-Canada launched the strike on Feb. 10, but suspended the job action and returned to work during the ratification process for a tentative agreement reached on Feb. 24. The union resumed the strike on April 11 after 79 percent of UTU-Canada members rejected the one-year settlement. That same day, CN began locking out striking workers at various terminals. CN managers are filling in for striking workers.


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