* Union, company must give 72 hours' notice of strike,
* Talks with government mediators continue
* Work rules at issue, union says
By Susan Taylor
TORONTO, Oct 28 Canadian National Railway Co
, the country's largest railroad, said on Monday it is
still talking with the union representing about 3,300 conductors
and other workers and expects the two sides will be able to
avoid a strike.
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 efforts
with conciliators to reach an agreement failed.
The union and company will be in a legal position for a
strike or lockout at 1 minute after midnight on Tuesday. But
both parties must give 72 hours' notice before a strike or
lockout can start, so a work stoppage would not be immediate.
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
larger-than-expected quarterly profit last week,
is preparing a contingency plan in the event of a strike or
Union spokesman Roland Hackl, a member of the bargaining
team, said both parties have agreed not to speak publicly about
"No action can take place on either part unless 72 hours'
notice is served to the other and there has been no notice.
That's about all I can tell you right now, we're still working,"
said Hackl, who said previously he was hopeful that a deal would
be reached last week.
Any service disruption would be particularly problematic for
Canadian farmers, who must move a record grain and oilseeds
harvest to market.
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.