CORRECTED-CN Rail optimistic on union deal as strike deadline nears

Mon Oct 28, 2013 11:45am EDT
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(Removes extraneous characters from headline; corrects second paragraph, showing strike or lockout requires 72 hours' notice by union or company)

By Susan Taylor

TORONTO Oct 28 (Reuters) - Canadian National Railway Co , the country's largest railroad, said on Monday it is continuing talks with the union representing about 3,300 conductors and other workers and is optimistic a contract deal will be reached ahead of a strike deadline early on Tuesday.

At one minute after midnight on Tuesday, the union and company will be in a legal position for a strike or lockout. But a work stoppage won't happen immediately because both parties must first give 72 hours' notice.

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 Oct. 21 after earlier efforts with conciliators to reach an agreement failed.

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 bigger-than-expected quarterly profits last week, is preparing a contingency plan in the event of a strike or lockout.

A spokesman for the union could not immediately be reached for comment.   Continued...