Grand Trunk Western Railroad and the Transportation Communications Union today launch a week of do-or-die negotiations to produce a contract to allow the carrier to integrate its operations with CN North America, its parent company.
Under the terms of an April 18 Interstate Commerce Commission decision, loss-plagued Grand Trunk must reach new agreements with its unions before it can integrate the remaining operations and staff into CN.To date, no agreements have been signed.
Union officials describe the sessions as a "do-or-die" process and possibly the last talks before the labor group is released from mediation through the National Mediation Board.
The union, unhappy about the progress of negotiations, has asked to be released from the Mediation Board's oversight process so it can call a strike authorized by its members in June. Without that release from NMB, the Railway Labor Act prevents any moves toward a strike.
"We have an optimistic outlook that we will reach a settlement with our clerical unions," said Gloria Combe, Grand Trunk spokeswoman. "They (negotiators) are working hard to reach that agreement."
Staff cutbacks and redesigned service are the centerpieces of the integration that is meant to eliminate losses that carrier officials say have reached $200 million over five years.
While the carrier is looking to cut costs, the union's main issue is the separation terms for those members whose work is to be integrated into CN operations in Montreal.
Grand Trunk has some 450 clerks, who represent nearly 20 percent of the railroad's work force.
The precise number of clerical jobs that will be eliminated is not known.
None of the workers is to be transferred, in part because Canadian law makes immigration difficult, according to union officials.
Carrier and union officials were in negotiations for more than a year before CN North America announced integration plans early in 1995.
Ms. Combe said no date has been set for the integration because it must follow completion of the labor agreements.
She said the railroad hopes to move on then to reaching agreements with the United Transportation Union and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.