CN and CPKC employees moving towards a strike

CN and CPKC employees moving towards a strike
May 02, 2024

The earliest a strike could occur is May 22

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Employees at two railway companies could strike later this month.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) announced that 97.6 per cent of CN conductors, locomotive engineers and yard workers, and 99 per cent of the same employees at CPKC, voted in favour of moving forward with a strike.

And rail traffic controllers at CPKC voted 95.3 per cent in favour of a strike.

This means if the union and employers can’t come to an agreement, a strike could occur as early as May 22.

“CN and CPKC, the message is clear,” Paul Boucher, president of the TCRC said during a May 1 news conference in Ottawa. “Your employees have spoken.”

Any claims that the railway companies are proposing predictable work schedules are false, Boucher said.

A summary of CN’s April 11 offer to the TCRC indicates the organization is offering consistent schedules.

“Employees will know, in advance, the days they are at work and the days they are off – giving them more flexibility and work-life balance,” the document says. “Furthermore, they cannot be called to work during the scheduled days off at their home terminal.”

An example of a schedule would be five eight-hour workdays with two consecutive days off.

Boucher claimed the railway companies want to strip away articles that mitigate worker fatigue.

As of Nov. 25, 2024, the “Duty & Rest Period Rules” for railway companies and employees indicates and employee must have a minimum of 12 hours of rest at the home terminal, 10 hours of rest in an accommodation if the terminal is in a remote location, and 10 hours in an accommodation when not in a home terminal.

And eight of those hours must be undisturbed.

No information on CPKC’s offers is readily available, but the company insists its offers comply with the new rules.

“Both options provide significant benefits for our employees and fully comply with new Canadian regulatory requirements for rest. They do not in any way compromise safety. To say or suggest otherwise is false,” the organization said in a May 1 statement.

“The first offer provides significant pay increases made possible by a simplified time-based method of pay and improved work-life balance through schedule predictability and set days off. The second offer proposes competitive wage increases and maintains the status quo for the balance of the collective agreement, with one exception: addressing a single pay item at the away from home terminal to account for the new regulated rest regime in Canada.”

Canada’s ag industry has weighed in on the labour situation.

Grain Growers of Canada and its members are calling for an urgent resolution to the issue.

About 94 per cent of Canadian grain is transported by rail, with much of it headed for export markets.

Any supply chain disruptions would cause significant challenges, said Andre Harpe, chair of Grain Growers of Canada.

“A rail strike now is the last thing we need. We’re at a critical point in the seeding season, and any delay in shipping can directly affect our bottom line and cause substantial economic losses across the agricultural sector,” he said in a statement.

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