CORRECTED-UPDATE 3-Conductors' union puts Canada's CN Rail on strike notice

Wed Feb 5, 2014 4:26pm EST
 
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(Corrects 15th paragraph to show that company is based in Montreal, not Calgary)

By Susan Taylor

TORONTO Feb 5 (Reuters) - Canadian National Railway Co said on Wednesday the union representing 3,000 of its workers gave notice it intends to strike as early as Saturday, threatening one of the country's most important transport networks.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference said that CN, the country's largest rail operator, told the union early on Wednesday it was "done negotiating" and workers must choose between an existing labor deal or walking off the job. Talks continued into the afternoon.

The union gave notice of its intention to strike after conductors, train and yard workers voted down a tentative pact in October, saying members had a deep distrust of the railway because it didn't respect provisions for rest.

"We really aren't looking forward to a strike," union general chairman, Roland Hackl, told Reuters. "It's more of a tool to put a little bit of pressure on the company to get them serious."

A work stoppage at CN could disrupt a vast cross-country network that ships goods ranging from lumber and crude oil to grains and automobiles. It would also come at a time when harsh winter weather has hampered operations, driven up costs and slowed services.

Chief Operating Officer Jim Vena said the company would decide on its next steps at the end of the day if it fails to reach an agreement with the union.

"CN underscores the seriousness of this action by the union," spokesman Mark Hallman said in an emailed statement. "CN remains available to meet the union today, with the assistance of federal mediators, to reach labor agreement."   Continued...