VIA Rail, Union Collective Agreements RatifiedWritten by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
Following tentative agreements reached on July 12, VIA Rail Canada (VIA Rail) announced on Aug. 2 the ratification of collective agreements for approximately 2,400 VIA Rail employees represented by Unifor.
The current agreements, which will be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2022, and in effect through Dec. 31, 2024, will allow the employees—who work in stations, on board trains and in maintenance centers—to catch up post-pandemic with a 5.5% wage increase in 2022, a 3.5% increase in 2023, and a 2.5% increase in 2024, for an average wage increase over three years of 3.83%. Collective agreements 1, 2 and 3 for members of Unifor’s Council 4000 and Local 100 also include revisions to various work rules, and closer collaboration on issues of diversity and inclusion.
“We are delighted with the ratification of these mutually beneficial agreements, which will provide stability for the next three years, as well as increased flexibility to actively pursue the recovery of our services and advance VIA Rail’s important modernization projects,” said Martine Rivard, VIA Rail’s Chief Employee Experience Officer. “I am grateful for the hard work of both negotiating teams and would especially like to thank Unifor’s Chief Negotiator Scott Doherty and recognize the guidance of conciliators who helped bring about this positive outcome for our employees and our passengers.”
According to VIA Rail, employees of the passenger rail service experienced “unprecedented hardships” throughout the past two years, and when called upon “remained professional and continued to offer the high-quality service that VIA Rail is known for.” As the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on the travel industry, many employees were laid off, and unionized employees saw increases of 0% in 2020, and 2% in 2021, according to VIA Rail.
The ratification of these agreements, VIA Rail says, provides “much needed stability in the industry and more options for passengers at a time when Canadians have shown an increased appetite for travel.” It also offers reassurance for the communities who count on VIA Rail services from coast to coast to coast, the passenger rail service added.
On July 7, Unifor issued a strike mandate, and on July 8, a 72-hour strike notice to the national carrier to “give the public ample notice and an opportunity to make alternative arrangements for travel” if a new contract could not be negotiated by 12:01 a.m. (then extended to 4 p.m.) on July 11.