Railway workers at CN, CPKC vote to reauthorize strike but open federal mediation, union says

Union members at CN and CPKC railways have voted to reauthorize strikes at both companies if negotiated settlements can’t be reached.

Teamsters Canada said in a statement Saturday that union members at both railways voted almost 99 per cent in favour of reauthorized strike action.

The union said members previously voted in favour of strike action on May 1, but the 60-day time limit on the vote expired.

It said that meant it had to take the “unusual step” of holding a second strike vote.

CPKC spokesman Terry Cunha said the company issued a statement Friday and would not be making further comments Saturday. 

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The Friday update on the company’s website said the railway was awaiting a decision from the Canada Industrial Relations Board regarding the federal labour minister’s referral on maintenance of activities during a strike or lockout.

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“We know our supply chain stakeholders want certainty regarding expected timing of a CIRB decision and potential work stoppage, however, it remains unclear when the CIRB will issue a decision,” said the statement.

It said it is unlikely the company or union would be in a legal position to initiate a strike or lockout before mid-July or later, and 72-hours strike or lockout notice must be provided. 

The company also said it requested the CIRB extend a cooling-off period for 30 days after the date of its maintenance activities decision.

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“This would help provide stability and predictability regarding the timelines for a potential work stoppage and allow all stakeholders to plan for such an eventuality,” said the company statement.

Paul Boucher, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference president, said the union wants to go back to the bargaining table with its renewed strike mandate and work with federal government mediators. 

The union said the rail companies are looking for concessions on crew schedules, work hours and fatigue management.

“CN and CPKC are trying to force changes to our collective agreements that would move the clock back on working conditions and rail safety,” said Boucher. “The Teamsters are trying to stop them.”

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