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CN kicks off recovery after eight-day strike

Reuters –– Canadian National Railway on Thursday said it was putting a recovery plan in place while ramping up operations after the country’s biggest rail strike in a decade.

The eight-day-long work stoppage at Canada’s largest railroad sent shocks through the country’s economy with grain and propane shipments scuttled.

The strike by about 3,200 conductors and yard workers demanding improved working conditions and rest breaks ended on Tuesday as the company reached a tentative agreement with the Teamsters union.

In a statement, CN said the strike caused its network to run at about 10 per cent of capacity and that it would work on starting its recovery plan while staying in direct contact with customers of the railroad to collect feedback on progress.

“Overriding emphasis will be placed on safety as we implement a disciplined and progressive ramp up to avoid congestion that can overwhelm parts of the supply chain that are the most vulnerable,” said CEO JJ Ruest.

Canada relies on CN and Canadian Pacific Railway to move products such as crops, oil, potash, coal and other manufactured goods to ports and the United States.

The CN strike sparked national attention over worker fatigue, after the Teamsters released a recording of an exhausted rail worker pleading with a CN supervisor for a break after a 10-hour shift.

As part of the deal ending the strike, CN will waive the “work-now-grieve-later principle,” under which workers were told to stay on the job and only contest any alleged break violations through the filing of a grievance, a source familiar with the matter said, confirming an earlier report by the Winnipeg Free Press.

CN declined comment on the agreement’s details while a spokesman for Teamsters Canada was not immediately available for comment.

The draft of the new labour agreement also calls for a retroactive 2.5 per cent increase in hourly, mileage-based and flat rates of pay as of July 23, 2019, an identical wage rise a year later, and a three per cent raise in 2021, the source added.

Union members should vote on the deal within eight weeks.

— Reporting for Reuters by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bangalore.

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