UPDATE 1-CN Rail optimistic on union deal as strike deadline nears

Mon Oct 28, 2013 1:49pm EDT
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* Union, company must give 72 hours' notice of strike, lockout

* Talks with government mediators continue

* Work rules at issue, union says

By Susan Taylor

TORONTO, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Canadian National Railway Co , 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 Oct. 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.   Continued...