CN Rail reaches tentative deal with union, averting lockout

Tue Feb 24, 2015 1:18am EST
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By Allison Martell and Mike De Souza

TORONTO/GATINEAU, Quebec (Reuters) - Canada's biggest railway reached a last-minute tentative agreement with one of its unions on Monday, averting a lockout that threatened to delay imports from Asia and compound a U.S. West Coast port logjam.

Canadian National Railway Co (CNR.TO: Quote) and Unifor, the union representing its 4,800 mechanical, clerical and trucking workers, struck a deal just before the railway's 11 p.m. EST Monday deadline to lock out the workers.

"I'm delighted to say that Unifor and Canadian National Railway have been able to come to a tentative agreement," Canadian Labour Minister Kellie Leitch told Reuters outside the bargaining room. "CN will be running at full capacity tonight and tomorrow."

CN Rail operates freight trains on tracks across Canada and the United States, but Unifor represents only Canadian workers.

The two main unresolved issues had been pay and benefits, a Unifor official said earlier on Monday.

Details of the tentative agreement are being withheld pending ratification by Unifor members, CN Rail said in a statement late on Monday. The union is expected to announce the results of the ratification vote in the next three weeks.

"I'm elated, it came right down to the wire," Unifor National President Jerry Dias told Reuters. "(Leitch) found a way to make sure the corporation knew that there had to be a negotiated settlement, and her strong statements in that regard were pivotal."

A lockout could have spurred disruptions of shipments of grain and other commodities and goods across Canada and impede operations at the country's biggest port, Vancouver.   Continued...

A view of the Canadian Nationals (CN) Thornton Railroad Yards in Surrey, British Columbia, June 21, 2012.   REUTERS/Andy Clark