(Updates with CN's offer of new talks, CEO quote, response from
By Solarina Ho
TORONTO, March 21 Canadian National Railway Co
said on Friday that it was prepared to meet one last
time with the union representing its conductors, yard workers,
and traffic coordinators, if the union agreed to a binding
arbitration should talks fail.
The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC-CTY), which
represents about 3,000 CN Rail workers, had no immediate comment
on the offer, but said it would discuss the proposal with local
representatives and respond on Saturday.
The offer came after union leaders met on Friday to decide
whether to strike or take other action after members narrowly
rejected a second tentative contract deal with Canada's biggest
"CN is willing to go back to the bargaining table with
TCRC-CTY one last time to achieve a fair settlement," the
railway's Chief Executive Officer Claude Mongeau said in a
statement late on Friday. "But we can only do that if the union
commits upfront to binding arbitration in the event our
It said the union must respond to its offer by Saturday.
Canada's labor minister, Kellie Leitch, urged CN Rail and
union leaders on Friday to seek voluntary arbitration to avert a
strike, which she said would damage the economy.
The Teamsters union said on Thursday that its members had
rejected the latest agreement by a 51.1 percent margin. The deal
was reached last month after the government said it would use
back-to-work legislation if necessary to keep the railway
The dispute comes as CN Rail struggles to move 5,500 cars of
grain a week to cope with a massive backlog from a
record-shattering harvest in 2013. The backlog has been
exacerbated by transport disruptions caused by an extremely cold
Montreal-based CN Rail previously said it would prefer to
settle unresolved issues through final binding arbitration, a
process in which an arbitrator decides the final terms of the
contract, and requested a union response by the end of Friday's
The union said that government interference has made it
difficult to resolve the conflict.
"CN knows that there is no real fear of a work stoppage
because the government will step in, so the outstanding issues
never get resolved," the Teamsters said in a statement earlier
on Friday, calling the failed ratification "not overly
The union said the vote failed because workers were unhappy
that CN was not respecting contractual rest provisions, an issue
it called one of worker safety.
It said that CN had been "violating the collective agreement
... since the first tentative settlement was reached back in
October and long before that".
CN's spokesman Mark Hallman declined to comment on the
Labor Minister Leitch said she was "disappointed" by the
"I urge both parties to consider the best interests of all
Canadians and avoid a work stoppage by sending their outstanding
issues to voluntary arbitration," she said in a statement.
"A work stoppage at CN would have damaging effects on our
economy - negatively impacting hardworking Canadians across the
country, including grain farmers in the Prairies, auto workers
in Ontario, and forestry workers in Quebec."
(Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Vancouver and Louise
Egan in Ottawa; Editing by Sophie Hares, Peter Galloway and Lisa