CN RAIL WORKERS OK SMALLER FREIGHT CREWS

CN RAIL WORKERS OK SMALLER FREIGHT CREWS

The United Transportation Union has ratified an agreement with Canadian National that will permit two-person crews to run the railway's freight trains in western Canada.

The agreement means that more than 500 brakemen will become redundant, but provides an enhanced separation package for those opting for early retirement or severance pay.As of April 10, most CN trains running between the Pacific coast and Thunder Bay, Ontario, will require only a locomotive engineer and a conductor.

"While crew size reductions are difficult for our members to accept, this particular agreement is made more acceptable as it includes a no-layoff clause and provides for premium payments to affected employees," said John Armstrong, union leader.

A CN official told The Journal of Commerce that "the agreement will help the railway become more competitive against truckers in domestic and international freight markets by keeping overhead costs under control."

It also will increase the company's flexibility in handling time- and price- sensitive traffic.

A similar agreement was reached last summer in Quebec and Ontario. Negotiations are continuing on an agreement involving lines between Montreal and Halifax.

Meanwhile, CN announced a US$35 million order for 25 high-power locomotives. The bulk of the manufacturing and assembly will be done at the Erie, Pa., plant of General Electric Co.