No quick political fix on cards for CN Rail strike

Mon Nov 30, 2009 5:32pm EST
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By Randall Palmer and Nicole Mordant

OTTAWA/VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada's efforts to speed through legislation to halt a strike by Canadian National Railway's locomotive engineers hit a political roadblock on Monday, preventing an immediate end to the walkout.

Two opposition parties, the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Quebecois, said they would oppose any attempt by the Conservative government to fast-track a bill that would force the strikers back to work.

With all-party support the strike could have been over on Monday night. But the legislation will now face additional debate and procedural hurdles that could take days.

Some 1,700 locomotive engineers at Canada's biggest railroad walked off the job at the weekend after CN last week unilaterally imposed new work conditions.

The government said it wanted to prevent the strike derailing Canada's economic recovery. Statistics out on Monday showed that Canada crept out of recession in the third quarter, but the recovery remains fragile.

"Shippers rely on CN. Farmers rely on CN. Companies from every province and territory in this country rely on the CN rail system," Labor Minister Rona Ambrose said after introducing the back-to-work bill.

"The CN rail system is an integral and vital part of our transportation system and at this time in Canada during a fragile economic period it is incredibly important that our government protect Canadian jobs and protect the Canadian economy."

The Liberal Party, the largest opposition party, declined to say what it would do until the government gave more detail on the issues dividing the company and union. The Conservatives have a minority of seats in Parliament, so the bill would fail if all three opposition parties vote against it.   Continued...

<p>Rail cars sit in the CN MacMillan Yard in Toronto February 10, 2007. REUTERS/J.P. Moczulski</p>