Canadian National Railway offered new contract terms that include cutting the crew size on some trains, said a spokesman for the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, and the union is preparing a response.
TCRC spokesman Bryan Boechler told The Journal of Commerce that while either side could trigger a labor action - a strike or a lockout - after giving 72 hours notice, "we have no intention of serving strike notice."
The TCRC represents about 2,700 conductors, train yard workers and traffic coordinators in the talks.
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A CN spokesman said federally mediated negotiations are continuing Sept. 28, after they resumed the day before for the first time in weeks to replace a contract that expired in July. A formal cooling-off period ends just after midnight.
CN previously indicated it was willing to accept the recommendations of a federally appointed conciliator, who proposed a "status quo" three-year replacement contract earlier this month.
Boechler said CN has now proposed eliminating the brakeman position, which helps make up a three-man crew for local and long-distance trains that change freight cars on the route. That would leave those trains operating with a conductor and locomotive engineer. He said CN also proposed breaking down distinctions between road and yard crews.
The TCRC on Sept. 27 said more than 90 percent of workers under the contract voted to give their negotiators strike authority if no agreement can be reached with the railroad. However, Boechler said union bargainers are "more than willing to stay in Montreal" and keep at the bargaining table to work out contract terms.
The union also raised the possibility that CN could at some point leave the talks and pointed to last year's breakdown of negotiations between CN and TCRC's locomotive engineers. That led to a 4-day strike last Nov. 28 to Dec. 2, and a move in Parliament to intervene before the two sides agreed to arbitration.
The railroad spokesman said on Sept. 27 that CN hopes to achieve a contract settlement without a labor disruption, and considers a prompt conclusion to negotiations "in the best interest of the company, its employees and customers."
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