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TORONTO, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Canadian National Railway said on Sunday it is meeting with Unifor, the union representing 4,800 of its mechanical, clerical and intermodal staff, and hoped to reach a negotiated settlement or an agreement to enter binding arbitration over their contract dispute.
Canada's No. 1 railway had called for binding arbitration on Friday when it first announced it was preparing to lock out employees represented by the union, a move it said could come as soon as Monday.
"CN is pleased to be having a meeting the leadership of Unifor this afternoon. CN hopes to reach a negotiated settlement with Unifor or to attain the union's agreement to move forward with binding arbitration to settle the parties' contractual differences," CN spokesman Mark Hallman said in an email.
Unifor, which on Friday called for CN Rail to return to the bargaining table, said on its Twitter feed on Saturday that the railway should negotiate a deal rather than seek arbitration.
With protracted contract talks between CN and Unifor at an impasse, the union had said on Thursday it planned to proceed with a vote to strike.
Unifor made the decision after CN on Wednesday said it would unilaterally alter a labor pact covering staff represented by Unifor if a new accord was not agreed by Feb. 20. (Reporting by Jeffrey Hodgson; Writing by Eric Walsh; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)