Unifor hasn’t provided strike notice yet
By Diego Flammini
Unionized employees at Canadian National Railway (CN) won’t be going on strike yet.
March 21 would’ve been the earliest that about 3,600 mechanics, clerical workers and intermodal staff represented by Unifor could’ve walked off the job, following a 72-hour notice.
On March 18, however, Unifor informed its members it would continue negotiating with CN.
“Though the employer has not yet moved on key areas, we remain determined to push them to a collective agreement that respects the work of all members,” the Local 1000 and Council 4000 bargaining committees said in a statement. Therefore, we have decided to continue negotiations over the weekend. Your solidarity has been critical in reaching this stage of negotiations. Together we have shown a united front behind members’ demands.”
Unifor has five contracts with CN, all of which expired in December 2022. But the two sides have been working on a new agreement since October 2022.
The rail company last tabled an offer on Feb. 14, 2023.
It includes “increases in net pay and benefits. It also resolved outstanding issues between the parties and provides improved working conditions for all represented employees,” CN said.
The offer also proposes changing the age for early retirement from 55 with a minimum of 30 years of service, to 65 by the end of 2023.
Unifor rejected that offer.
“We need the company to withdraw what we view as concessions and then we’d be prepared to continue trying to find common ground,” Bruce Snow, a national Unifor rep, told the Toronto Star.
This labour situation has some people wondering if CN should remain a private company.
CN was publicly owned from 1919 to 1995.
And given how important rail transport is in Canada, it may be time for CN to be publicly-owned again, said Taylor Noakes, an investigative reporter and public historian.
“If merely suggesting a strike sends politicians and retail lobbyists into a frenzy, then railroad workers are indeed an essential workforce and railways ought to be a public asset,” he wrote in the Toronto Star on March 17.