CN Rail, Teamsters schedule fresh contract talks

Wed Nov 25, 2009 5:43pm EST
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By Susan Taylor

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian National Railway Co said on Wednesday it will meet with the union representing 1,700 locomotive engineers on November 27, one day before the workers are scheduled to go on strike.

The country's biggest railroad received a 72-hour strike notice from the Teamsters union on Wednesday, after talks between the two sides broke off last week over disagreements on wages and the cap on how many miles engineers must drive.

"I'm hoping we can come to some sort of solution," Teamsters Canada Rail Conference President Daniel Shewchuk told Reuters in an interview. "I'm cautiously optimistic."

CN had earlier urged the union to either resume talks immediately or submit disputed issues to binding arbitration before the strike deadline.

The federal government appointed two mediators, who have worked since August to help resolve the dispute. The engineers have been without a contract since December 31, 2008.

"The mediators have requested the parties meet in Montreal at noon Friday," said CN spokesman Mark Hallman. "We will attend and ... we very much hope that we can reach an agreement to avoid a strike."

The union said it had no choice but to issue a strike notice after CN said on Monday it planned to increase the engineers' monthly mileage cap to from 3,800 miles to 4,300, the current level for train conductors. The railway also said it would raise wages by 1.5 percent effective November 28.

"As advised by the company, these changes are the tip of the iceberg and we cannot sit idly by while CN simply changes the terms and conditions of the collective agreement," Shewchuk said separately in a statement.   Continued...