Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Canada advances legislation to end CN strike

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Canada’s federal government Monday introduced legislation to terminate the strike against Canadian National, which commenced Saturday, calling the strike a threat to the weak economic recovery. Passage of the bill is expected shortly, perhaps as early as this week. The bill orders contentious issues between CN management and labor to be addressed by binding arbitration.

Federal Labour Ministor Rona Ambrose  said she would have preferred to see a negotiated end to the walkout, but added that action was required after talks faltered. 

“This is more than a private dispute between CN Rail and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference,” she stated. “It has serious repercussions for the national economy at a time when Canada's recovery from the global recession is still fragile.”

About 1,700 locomotive engineers represented by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference have walked out; CN has attempted to keep trains running by tapping qualified engineers from within management ranks.

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CN  is offering a 1.5% wage increase and seeking to raise the maximum distance engineers cantravel in one month from 3,800 miles to 4,300 miles. Labor counters that the hike in the distance cap would require some staff to work seven days a week, and cause layoffs.

CN denies those claims, saying engineers would work between 16 and 18 days per month, up slightly from the current level of between 15 and 17 days. It also says it seeks simply to require engineers to work the same number of miles as conductors, noting they will be paid for their work at adjusted rates.