Wednesday, July 22, 2009

End-of-week strike looms for VIA Rail; trains cancelled

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The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, representing 340 train engineers at VIA Rail Canada that are members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), has given notice to Canada’s intercity railroad that its members could go on strike July 24, forcing cancelation of passenger train service.

VIA Rail reportedly already has begun canceling some of its long-distance trains as a cautionary measure, and said that all trains would be canceled at noon Friday if a settlement with the union is not reached. Trains on the Sudbury-White River and Victoria-Courtenay routes will remain in service, as they are operated by third parties on VIA’s behalf.

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A mediator has been appointed to assist in the negotiations and VIA Rail is “hopeful that an agreement will be reached before the set deadline,” the railroad said Tuesday.

TCRC says its members have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2006. At issue are improved wages and benefits, scheduling that allows members two consecutive days off, and increased training schedules for engineers. “Many of the issues related to what we're trying to achieve here are quality-of-life issues,” TCRC President Dan Shewchuk said.