A spokesperson for CN Rail confirms that due to “adjusting its resources to demand,” CN has laid off approximately 1,600, including managers, office employees, and unionized rail workers . Those in a range of positions within the CN Rail network both in Canada and the U.S. will lose their job.
According to CN, the layoffs have already started. Some worker will also be placed on furlough.
At the end of October, the union that represents roughly 3,000 members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) at CN had earlier reported a November strike could happen, and since the news broke about layoffs, the TCRC has given the company 72-hour strike notice.
The strike would begin as of 00:01 hours EST this Tuesday, November 19.
Safety concerns a key issues
The president of the TCRC says safety is one of the major concerns when it comes to negotiations. The union says CN currently requires TCTC members to “operate trains alone from outside of the locomotive, hanging on to moving trains with one hand while operating a remotely controlled locomotive with the other. Railroaders are expected to do this in rain and in freezing temperatures, sometimes for distances of up to about 17 miles.”
The union has demanded this type of dangerous operation to be stopped; however, it has “fallen on deaf ears” and claims CN has refused to come to a satisfactory agreement at the negotiations table to adjust their operating practices in the interest of safety. Taking time off work has also been a struggle for employees, according to the TCRC.
“Fatigue has been recognized by the Transportation Safety Board as a major safety problem in this industry. Too many railroaders are operating trains when they should be resting,” says Lyndon Isaak, president of the TCRC. “For the safety of all Canadians, we cannot allow CN to make it even harder for our members to get the rest they need.”
TCRC members affirms wages are not major sticking points in negotiations.
Both sides have been in negotiation for roughly seven months, and as of the past five months have been working with federal mediators. In September, TCRC members voted 99.2 per cent in favour of strike action.
Talks with both sides are continuing in Montreal.
According to a news release, work stoppage would bring CN’s operations to a halt but would not affect public transportation.