Arbitrator sets out labour deal for CN conductors

Updated, June 23, 2014 — Binding terms are now in place for a few years’ labour peace between Canadian National Railway (CN) and its conductors and yardpeople.

CN announced Friday it has received, and will “immediately” start carrying out, the decisions made by federally-appointed arbitrator Michel Picher.

Picher’s rulings are binding on the company and on the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference-Conductors, Trainpersons and Yardpersons (TCRC-CTY), the union for about 3,000 staff on CN lines in Canada.

CN chief operating officer Jim Vena said the arbitration process has given the company and union “contractual certainty,” which he described as “good news for our customers and the Canadian economy.”

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The union and company agreed in March to go to binding arbitration, after two previous attempts at a labour deal failed to ratify.

The TCRC-represented conductors’ previous agreement — ratified in 2010 following last-chance talks with a federal mediator — expired in July 2013. According to CN’s Mark Hallman, the new three-year contract covers the period ending July 22, 2016.

Ray Donegan, vice-general chairman for the TCRC-CTY in Western Canada, said Friday the terms Picher has laid out are “essentially the last contract we negotiated on Feb. 5.”

That deal, reached under the threat of federal back-to-work legislation, fell 39 votes short of ratification when put to union members.

Work rule changes are effective immediately, CN said Friday, while “improvements” to worker benefits will take effect July 1.

Picher’s terms also call for general wage increases of three per cent, retroactive to July 23, 2013; three per cent effective July 23 this year; and three per cent effective July 23 next year.

CN said the wage increases in this deal are “in line with general wage and benefits provisions in recent settlements between CN and its other unions.”

Scheduling

Vena said Picher’s ruling also “paves the way for the introduction of scheduling for conductors in Western Canada, an approach we believe will help to address manpower availability and promote greater work-life balance.”

Under the train lineup system set up in the workers’ previous deal, he said, TCRC members are “on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Workers who aren’t booked off have a “general idea” of what their working hours will be, he said, but when a train lineup is inaccurate, workers can be called in for a full shift, starting at any hour, with just two hours’ notice.

A scheduling system, Donegan said, would instead provide workers with eight- to 12-hour windows, which he also said will offer more stability of hours and “greater quality of life.”

“With the help of the Labour program’s Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, (CN) and the union agreed to settle their differences by going to binding arbitration,” Labour Minister Kellie Leitch said in a statement Monday. “The best solution to any dispute is always the one parties reach themselves.” — AGCanada.com Network

 

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