(Removes extraneous characters from headline; corrects second
paragraph, showing strike or lockout requires 72 hours' notice
by union or company)
By Susan Taylor
TORONTO Oct 28 Canadian National Railway Co
, the country's largest railroad, said on Monday it is
continuing talks with the union representing about 3,300
conductors and other workers and is optimistic a contract deal
will be reached ahead of a strike deadline early on Tuesday.
At one minute after midnight on Tuesday, the union and
company will be in a legal position for a strike or lockout. But
a work stoppage won't happen immediately because both parties
must first give 72 hours' notice.
A strike or lockout would disrupt a crucial network for
moving goods as diverse as cars and crude oil. Negotiations with
government-appointed mediators resumed on Oct. 21 after earlier
efforts with conciliators to reach an agreement failed.
The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference union, which represents
conductors, trainmen, yardmen and traffic coordinators, has said
talks stalled on CN demands for concessions that would force
members to work longer hours with less rest time between trips.
CN has said none of its proposals would compromise worker health
"CN remains optimistic that it can negotiate a settlement
with the (Teamsters) to avoid labor disruption in Canada,"
railway spokesman Mark Hallman told Reuters.
He would not comment on whether CN, which reported
bigger-than-expected quarterly profits last week, is preparing a
contingency plan in the event of a strike or lockout.
A spokesman for the union could not immediately be reached
Any service disruption would be particularly problematic for
Canadian grain growers, who must move a record grain and
The Grain Growers of Canada asked the minister of labor in
an Oct. 25 letter to take "early action to head off this work
stoppage" and "swift and decisive" action in the event of a
The Canadian government has intervened several times in
recent years to force striking rail and airline workers back to
work. Last May, it used legislation to end a strike at Canadian
Pacific Railway Ltd, CN's smaller rival.
The contract dispute follows a recent CN derailment that
renewed public concern over the safety of rail transport for
fuel and other hazardous materials.
CN's mainline through Alberta was blocked for several days
last week after 13 cars on a mixed-freight train derailed. One
car containing highly flammable propane exploded and three
others burst into flames.
There were no injuries, but the accident came just months
after 47 people died when a crude oil train derailed and
exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.
(Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Peter Galloway)