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Latest News - February 2015

February 23, 2015
Canadian National Railway, Unifor Union Reach Tentative Labor Deal

OTTAWA— Canadian National Railway Co. and a union representing 4,800 railroad employees averted a labor dispute Monday night after agreeing to a tentative contract deal.

The Montreal-based railroad, Canada’s largest, had said it was prepared to lock out employees represented by Unifor—which counts clerical workers, truck drivers and mechanics as members—on Monday evening unless the two sides came to an agreement after months of negotiations. The previous contract between the railroad and Unifor expired Dec. 31.

Terms of the new tentative agreement weren't immediately available, and in a statement Unifor said details wouldn’t be revealed until after the ratification process. That is expected to last three weeks.

Last month, CN reached three-year deals with two other Canadian unions, covering rail-traffic controllers and track workers. The company employs 13,300 unionized workers in Canada.

Claude Mongeau, CN chief executive, said in a statement the company and union were able to find common ground, and the result is a tentative deal that avoids a labor disruption “that would have harmed CN’s employees, its customers and the Canadian economy.”

Unifor President Jerry Dias said his negotiators were “able to find solutions to the concerns raised by our members.”

In the event of a lockout, CN said its managers were prepared to fill in for employees represented by Unifor, though it warned customers the labor dispute could have adversely affected service, according to a memo the railroad issued to customers seen by The Wall Street Journal.

Kellie Leitch, Canada’s Labor Minister, said she was “pleased CN and Unifor were able to renew their collective agreements, eliminating any threat to the Canadian economy.”

Negotiations hit an impasse last week, the company said, because the union wanted CN to follow the terms of an agreement Unifor reached earlier in February with rival Canadian railroad operator Canadian LTD. CN said any agreement should reflect terms reached with the other four Canadian unions representing CN employees.

Unifor said CN abruptly halted talks after union negotiators rejected an offer, adding its officials have been willing to negotiate a deal with the company.

Just over a week ago, roughly 3,000 locomotive engineers and conductors represented by Teamsters Canada at Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. went on strike as contract talks broke down over issues regarding the company’s scheduling model and rest hours for train crews.

The strike ended the next day after both the company and union agreed to put their unresolved issues to voluntary arbitration, and Ms. Leitch said the governing Conservatives were prepared to introduce legislation to end the strike.




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