CN Rail, union to meet Wednesday in last push for contract
By Susan Taylor
TORONTO, March 24 (Reuters) - Canadian National Railway Co and the Teamsters union will meet in Montreal on Wednesday to make a final attempt at reaching a labor deal for some 3,000 conductors, yard workers, and traffic coordinators, the two groups said on Monday.
The last ditch effort comes after union members last week narrowly rejected a second tentative contract with the railway. CN Rail agreed to meet with the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC-CTY) for another round of talks contingent on the union's accepting binding arbitration if negotiations failed.
If the talks break down, "the parties will submit their differences to final and binding arbitration," said CN spokesman Mark Hallman. Federal government-appointed mediators will be with the parties, he added.
The Teamsters have agreed to meet to discuss the terms of arbitration, spokesman and negotiating team member Roland Hackl said. If the union can agree with CN on those terms, then it will negotiate on contract terms, he added.
"The biggest issue is trust and I'm not really sure how to put that into a collective agreement," Hackl said.
Members have rejected the last two tentative agreements because they do not trust the company to respect rest provisions under the existing contract, he has said.
Canada's largest railway previously told Reuters that extreme winter conditions since last December have hampered normal operations and slowed trains.
It added that the company complies with statutory rest provisions for its conductors, in accordance with federal government regulations, and that it has taken immediate steps to address any "perceived contractual rest provision problems" that the union brought to the attention of management. ID:nL2N0L80U2]
The disputes comes as CN works to comply with a government order to move 5,500 grain cars a week to address a massive bottleneck. The backlog, due to a record-breaking 2013 harvest, is hampered by transport disruptions due to harsh winter weather.
Montreal-based CN said on Monday that it spotted 4,456 grain cars in the past week, the third week in a row that it delivered more than 4,000 grain cars. Spotting means to place a rail car in position for loading or unloading. (Editing by Andrew Hay)
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