CN Rail optimistic on union deal as strike deadline nears

Mon Oct 28, 2013 1:51pm EDT
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By Susan Taylor

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian National Railway Co CNR.TO, the country's largest railroad, said on Monday it is still talking with the union representing about 3,300 conductors and other workers and expects the two sides will be able to avoid a strike.

A strike or lockout would disrupt a crucial network for moving goods as diverse as cars and crude oil. Negotiations with government-appointed mediators resumed on October 21 after efforts with conciliators to reach an agreement failed.

The union and company will be in a legal position for a strike or lockout at 1 minute after midnight on Tuesday. But both parties must give 72 hours' notice before a strike or lockout can start, so a work stoppage would not be immediate.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference union, which represents conductors, trainmen, yardmen and traffic coordinators, has said talks stalled on CN demands for concessions that would force members to work longer hours with less rest time between trips. CN has said none of its proposals would compromise worker health or safety.

"CN remains optimistic that it can negotiate a settlement with the (Teamsters) to avoid labor disruption in Canada," railway spokesman Mark Hallman told Reuters.

He would not comment on whether CN, which reported larger-than-expected quarterly profit last week, is preparing a contingency plan in the event of a strike or lockout.

Union spokesman Roland Hackl, a member of the bargaining team, said both parties have agreed not to speak publicly about negotiations.

"No action can take place on either part unless 72 hours' notice is served to the other and there has been no notice. That's about all I can tell you right now, we're still working," said Hackl, who said previously he was hopeful that a deal would be reached last week.   Continued...

Claude Mongeau, President and CEO of CN Rail, poses outside the convention hall before speaking to shareholders at the CN annual general meeting in Edmonton April 23, 2013. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber