Canada: Rail strikers defy back to work calls


Workers who have been on strike for two weeks, against the wishes of the United Transportation Union, are to vote on a new one-year deal.

Submitted by Steven. on February 28, 2007 reported that CN Rail and the United Transportation Union (UTU) have signed a tentative one-year agreement, ending a two-week walk out by 2,800 conductors and yard services employees.

The union remains in legal strike position pending the results of a ratification vote March 26.

The federal government suspended planned back-to-work legislation introduced Friday after the deal was reached Saturday.

Local UTU spokesperson Bill Whitton says the picket line is down in Williams Lake and workers are reporting to their shifts.

“We’re slowly starting to run the railway for them again,” Whitton says.

CN spokesperson Mark Hallman says rail operations will be back to normal as soon as possible.

The tentative agreement includes a three per cent pay increase and a $1,000 signing bonus, less than Whitton was hoping for.

“The good news for us and the mainline CN, we get to keep our collective agreements as they are,” he says.

“We’ll still be able to book rest time and there’ll be a mileage cap for the mainline.”

He says if the UTU had been legislated back to work, and the agreement was sent to arbitration, there is a good chance those items could have been lost.

“Was the strike a success?” asks Whitton. “I’d say it was worth it. I’m counselling people to go back to work.”

Whitton says he’s puzzled by the one-year deal, however.

“Personally it seems like a holding pattern for a year. They may have only postponed the inevitable.”

With the backlog of trains that existed before the strike two weeks ago, Whitton predicts it will take 10 days to two weeks before things are running back to normal again.

Speaking from Edmonton, CN spokesperson Jim Feeny says it is important to mention that the trains have always been running throughout the labour dispute.

“We’re encouraged that the union is encouraging their members to go back to work in the interim,” he says.

But he says not all union members or locals across the country are heeding the UTU call to return to their jobs.

As a result, Feeny says the company will keep management people available until March 26 to keep the trains running in case union members don’t show up for work.

Asked to comment on the one-year deal, Feeny declined to say anything.

“We agreed with the union we wouldn’t provide any details until the union has been able to provide the information about the agreement to its members.”

He also wouldn’t say where in the country UTU members are resisting returning to their jobs.

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