Over nine thousand CN and CPKC workers to vote on strike mandate

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The union that represents more than nine thousand CN and CPKC railway workers is organizing a vote to approve strike action, raising the prospects of a rail work stoppage as early as late May if several deals are not reached before then.

Members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) will begin voting electronically on April 8 on whether to give their representatives the option of moving ahead with a strike.

The negotiations and strike vote revolve around three collective bargaining contracts that expired on Dec. 31, 2023, affecting the following railway workers:

  • Nearly 6,000 conductors, locomotive engineers, and yard workers at CN,
  • Nearly 3,200 conductors, locomotive engineers, and yard workers at CPKC, and
  • Around 80 or 90 rail traffic controllers at CPKC.

Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan appointed federal mediators for each of the three agreements on March 1, upon the request of both CN and CPKC, which set in a motion a 60 day timeline to resolve the labour disputes through conciliation.

Representatives from the railways and union met with mediators as recently as March 26.

The 60 day period could be extended if both sides request and agree to an extension, but if a deal isn’t reached, there’s a mandatory 21 day “cooling off” period before a strike or lockout can take place, which means May 22 is the first day the workers could go on strike or get locked out by their employer.

At least four consecutive rounds of labour talks between CPKC (then CP Rail) and the TCRC have resulted in work stoppages, in 2012, 2015, 2018 and 2022. TCRC members at CN spent eight days on strike in 2019 before agreeing to a three-year deal that expired in mid-2022. The collective agreement with CN that expired on Dec. 31 was only ratified last May.

Under Canada’s labour law, the expired agreements remain in place until new deals are reached.

Related: Given the cost and frequency of labour disputes, it’s high time rail service be deemed essential

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