With Parliament posed to order an end to a five-day-old strike, CN and its 1,700 locomotive engineers quickly reached a settlement Dec. 2.
Labour Minister Rona Ambrose said back-to-work legislation, that was to have been passed through all stages in the Commons that day, was enough to get the two sides to work out a deal that is part arbitration and part negotiation.
The legislation, which would have likely passed over NDP and Bloc objections, would have referred all outstanding issues to arbitration. “Back-to-work legislation applied very real pressure on the parties,” she said. “Continuing the strike for any further amount of time would have had grave consequences for our economy.”
The settlement was signed by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference and CN a few hours before the debate on the back-to-work bill would have begun. Union president Daniel Shewchuk said, “The agreement provides for the parties to continue negotiations for a defined period of time in an effort to resolve the outstanding issues with a process that would require mutual agreement between the parties to submit any of the outstanding issues to arbitration. Wages and benefits, if unresolved, will be submitted to arbitration.”
The engineers returned to work as they were called for duty.CN
president Hunter Harrison said the settlement gives the parties “flexibility to negotiate issues further, but also ensures finality through binding arbitration of issues that remain in dispute.” The parties can also agree to submit work-rule issues to binding arbitration.
As part of this process, CN will roll back the monthly mileage cap for locomotive engineers to the previous 3,800 miles from the 4,300-mile cap initiated Nov. 28, and withdraw its plan to apply a 1.5 per cent wage increase to TCRC members. The union’s previous contract expired at the end of last year.CN
used managers to run many of its regular freight trains during the strike. From all reports, there were no major delays in the main ports or at major shipping points. With both railways still operating well below capacity because of the economic slowdown, CN was expected to have little trouble catching up with any shipments that were delayed.