By David Ljunggren and Susan Taylor
OTTAWA/TORONTO Oct 15 Canada's government is
closely monitoring a dispute between the railroad workers' union
and Canadian National Railway Co and wants both sides
to continue talking, a spokeswoman for Labour Minister Kellie
Leitch said on Tuesday.
The railway says talks will resume on Oct. 21 with
government-appointed mediators, and union spokesman Roland
Hackl, a member of the bargaining team, said the union hoped to
reach a deal "without a labor disruption."
The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference union said on Monday
that talks had broken down, raising the possibility of a strike
or lockout at the country's largest railroad operator after a
deadline expires at one minute after midnight on Oct. 29.
The union, which represents some 3,300 conductors, trainmen,
yardmen and traffic coordinators, said CN rejected its offer to
extend conciliation talks that ended on Oct. 7.
The union says talks stalled over CN demands for concessions
that would force workers to work longer hours with less rest
time between trips. Hackl told Reuters that the Montreal-based
railway wants to increase the hours that some conductors can be
required to work to 12 from 10 hours per tour, and wages and the
retirement plan are not central issues.
CN spokesman Mark Hallman said none its bargaining proposals
would compromise the health and safety of union members. "CN
remains optimistic that it can negotiate an amicable settlement
.... to avoid labour disruption in Canada," he said.
Railways move crucial commodities across Canada, including
potash, coal, oil and a 2014 Western Canadian grain crop that is
expected to be one of the largest on record.
"Minister Leitch encourages both parties to continue
negotiating and reach a new collective agreement as soon as
possible, as the best solution in any dispute is always the one
that the parties reach themselves," said the spokeswoman.
"We are monitoring the situation closely."
The Canadian government has intervened several times in
recent years to force striking unionized rail and airline
workers back on the job. In May 2012 Ottawa passed legislation
that ended a strike at Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd, CN
Rail's main domestic rival.
Leitch's spokeswoman did not respond to a question about
whether Ottawa would be prepared to intervene if CN Rail workers
went on strike.