CN, CP Railway workers give union strike mandate

Thu Jan 13, 2011 4:29pm EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Unionized workers at both Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway have voted in favor of giving their union a strike mandate if labor talks fail, the Canadian Auto Workers union said on Thursday.

The strike deadline at CN, the country's biggest railway, is January 25, and the deadline at CP, Canada's No. 2 carrier, is set for February 8, after contracts expired December 31.

The union, which began talks in October, said it represents 2,100 mechanical services workers at CP and 4,300 employees at CN, a figure the company puts at 3,975. Unionized staff at CN do clerical, shopcraft, intermodal and truck driving work.

Talks have been "challenging" with both railways, which are demanding concessions from workers, CAW President Ken Lewenza said in a statement.

Negotiations on work rule, lifestyle, benefits and overtime issues are far from agreement, said Bob Chernecki, assistant to Lewenza.

"There's a lot of work here that has to get done. Can we do it? Right now, I could only make the comment that I'm guarded," he said.

"We're absolutely determined that they're (workers) going to share in the success of these two corporations."

Talks with CP are under way in Montreal and negotiations with CN resume there on Sunday, Chernecki said.

CP said it has trained 1,200 managers and has a contingency plan in place to fully operate the railway if a labor dispute occurs, but it remains optimistic for a negotiated settlement.   Continued...