CN Rail makes new offer to striking workers

Tue Dec 1, 2009 6:13pm EST
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By Randall Palmer and Nicole Mordant

OTTAWA/VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canadian National Railway offered a potential olive branch on Tuesday to striking Canadian locomotive engineers, who are angry about a change in the amount of time they have to work each month.

Canada's biggest railway said it would agree to binding arbitration on wage and benefit issues and roll back its demand for a higher cap on the number of miles the engineers must drive each month.

The offer is conditional on the union withdrawing unspecified work demands from the bargaining table.

"This is a good faith effort to reach a settlement and to end the strike," CN spokesman Mark Hallman said.

The engineers' last contract expired on December 31, 2008.

The Teamsters union, which represents the 1,700 striking train engineers, was not immediately available for comment. Hallman declined to say what the union's demands on rules about working conditions were.

CN's offer came on the fourth day of the strike by Canadian engineers -- the dispute does not affect CN engineers in the United States. Shippers reported mild disruptions to their operations so far, but warned that problems would grow the longer workers stayed on the picket line.

The strike started on Saturday morning in response to CN unilaterally imposing a 1.5 percent wage increase and raising the monthly mileage cap to 4,300 miles from 3,800 after 14 months of negotiation failed to produce a new contract.   Continued...

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