Canada’s labor minister plans to offer legislation to force an end to the two-day-old strike against Canadian National Railway by locomotive engineers.
Labor Minister Rona Ambrose was expected to put that measure before the House of Commons Nov. 30, reportedly describing the strike as a threat to Canada’s efforts to recover from the past year’s deep recession.
Her measure, said news reports out of Ottawa, will include a requirement that the issues separating CN’s management and the TCRC be put to binding arbitration, according to news reports out of Ottawa.
The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference said Nov. 29 CN had rejected an offer to return to the bargaining table. The TCRC said it sent the railroad an offer through federal mediators to submit the wage part of their dispute to arbitration “upon successful resolution of the other outstanding issues.”
But the railroad said the union offer would not end the strike while talks resume. “If the TCRC would enter into a binding arbitration agreement with us today that simultaneously ends the strike,” CN said, “we would be pleased to draft an offer for resolution."
After their ongoing contract talks broke up Nov. 20, CN said it would impose a 1.5 percent wage hike on the 1,700 TCRC engineers who drive its trains, and require them to adopt a higher monthly mileage cap to match their work rules with those of conductors in the locomotive cabs.
The union responded with a strike notice, and a new round of last-minute talks failed to head off a strike that began early Nov. 28 on CN’s Canadian operations. It is the largest freight railroad in Canada, and while its sizable U.S. lines are not involved in the dispute any slowing of freight loadings in Canada can affect its U.S. shipments as well.
CN spokesman Mark Hallman said the carrier has triggered a contingency plan, under which it “deployed all of our available qualified management employees to operate freight trains safely across its network. CN is committed to provide the best possible service to its customers in the circumstances.”
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