Friday, February 23, 2024

CN Rail workers may strike over Contract, Safety issues come the spring

Rail traffic into Prince Rupert port facilities could be
shut down by the Spring. Should ongoing labour talks
with CN Rail prove unsuccessful

The labour climate at the nations two national railways. is heating up with both CN Rail and CKPC rail serving notices of dispute towards current talks,  

That's a labour mechanism that could see workers off the job by May, that should hoped for conciliation talks not lead to a resolution to a number of outstanding issues.

The CN notice posted to their website charts the railway position.

“CN continues its efforts to modernize its railway in a manner that will deliver the best possible service to our customers, while providing our employees with better work conditions and better work/life balance. 

Recent regulatory changes have challenged crew availability and CN is proposing to address that issue through a modernization of the compensation model. A strong supply chain is good for all stakeholders, the economy, and our employees.”  -- Pat Whitehead, Executive Vice-President and Chief Network Operating Officer 

The Teamsters Canada  Rail Conference responded to the railways' notice with a statement of its own for its membership this week.

On Friday, February 16th both CN and CPKC served Notice of Dispute to the Federal Government regarding all three Collective Agreements. These Notices were served within minutes of each other, and not during any active collective bargaining session(s). 

In fact, the last scheduled sessions took place the week of January 29th, during which the TCRC was faced with resistance from the carriers when attempting to secure future bargaining dates.

The move is designed to bring Federal Conciliators into the negotiations to try to help deliver on a deal to address the outstanding issues. 

The Teamsters Rail Conference message provided a timeline of what's ahead for the membership.

The appointment of a conciliation officer must happen within 15 days of the Notice of Dispute. This is then followed by a 60-day conciliation period in which negotiations will continue with the aid of the officer appointed. This 60-day period can be mutually extended by the parties, otherwise it will conclude and be followed by a 21 day “cooling off” period. 

The earliest a legal strike or lockout could occur is at the expiration of the 81 days, with the Union having secured a strike mandate from the membership and followed by either party serving 72 hours notice.  

What does this mean to the membership? With regards to the legal process each committee will be seeking a strike mandate to properly respond should the conciliation process not yield a collective agreement(s). 

A strike vote does not mean there absolutely will be a strike but is required under the Code (Section 87.3(1)), before that right is legally acquired. 

Regarding the Collective Bargaining process, your respective bargaining committees remain steadfast in achieving terms that will be ratified by you, the affected members. 

Both carriers have enjoyed unprecedented growth and financial success over the past number of years. Denying employees the right to share that success is simply a non-starter.

The update for members notes that the plans are in place to conduct strike votes among the membership in the near future.

Among some of the key issues to be resolved,  safety critical rest provisions in the collective agreement, an area which the railways note that recent changes in legislation make it harder and harder to assemble crews to run the trains.

More than 6,000 CN workers are represented by the Teamsters Rail Conference, a labour disruption would shut down the operations for much of the Prince Rupert Port Authority which relies on CN Rail for the vast majority of shipment of goods in and out of port facilities.

So far no conciliation team has been named by Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan  towards the dispute.

More on items related to CN Rail can be reviewed here.

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