CN Rail to meet with union over stalled labor deal

TORONTO Mon Feb 3, 2014 12:08pm EST

TORONTO Feb 3 (Reuters) - Canadian National Railway Co said it will meet on Monday afternoon with officials from the union representing 3,000 train conductors, yard workers, and traffic coordinators to discuss solutions after members rejected a tentative labor deal.

Union members have "a lot of mistrust" with Canada's largest railway, Teamsters Canada Rail Conference General Chairman Roland Hackl told Reuters, and will need assurances that CN will respect rest provisions for workers in the current agreement.

"It has been an ongoing problem," Hackl said, of members working 12 hours shifts despite asking to be relieved after 10 hours.

"There's logistical issues in relieving a crew, so we understand when it happens occasionally, but ... it has grossly escalated since the memorandum was reached."

CN, which negotiated a new three-year agreement with the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference - Conductors, Trainpersons and Yardpersons (TCRC-CTY) in October, said extreme winter weather conditions since last December have hampered normal operations and slowed trains.

"CN complies with the statutory rest provisions for its conductors in accordance with federal government regulations. Whenever the TCRC-CTY has brought perceived contractual rest provision problems to the attention of management, CN has taken immediate steps to address them," said CN spokesman Mark Hallman.

The company and union will "start to review the ratification results and to discuss solutions on how we can move forward."

Hackl said that some 60 percent of workers who voted had rejected the deal. He expects outstanding issues will be resolved but could not predict the timing.

"It's not that we're at odds over contract demands or the wage issue or a pension issue - it's the dissatisfaction of the membership from the failure of the company to abide by the existing terms."

Talks last year stalled over issues including longer work hours and less rest time between trips.

Canada's government has been quick to intervene in labor issues in the recent years, sending unionized staff at railways and airlines back to work to avoid major disruptions.

The labor issue comes as rail safety is under intense scrutiny, following a string of high-profile North American derailments involving oil. Regulators are under pressure to toughen industry standards, particularly after a runaway train that was carrying crude exploded and killed 47 people in Lac Megantic, Quebec last summer.