CP employees reject company’s ‘final’ offers

(Dave Bedard photo)

Conductors, engineers and signal maintainers at Canadian Pacific Railway are again within striking distance of striking.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), which represents about 3,000 CP engineers, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), which represents about 360 CP signal maintenance staff, confirmed Friday their members have voted to reject what CP described as its “final contract offers” to the two bargaining units.

Both unions agreed in late April to postpone their planned strikes and vote on CP’s offers, as per a request from federal Labour Minister Patty Hajdu, who directed the Canadian Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) to conduct the ratification vote.

The outcome of the votes restores a situation in which the company could call a lockout, or either of the unions could strike, on 72 hours’ notice. Both unions’ memberships voted early last month to authorize strike action if need be.

The Ag Transport Coalition, which monitors Prairie grain movement on behalf of several shipper and grower organizations, noted Friday in its weekly rail performance update that the vote raises the possibility of a work stoppage at CP as early as Monday, “on the heels of the best performance this year.”

However, CP said Friday no notice of a work stoppage has been issued; neither union said Friday it had issued strike notice, although IBEW noted its council is back in a legal position to issue such notice “at anytime.”

CP also said it “will be meeting with both unions later today to discuss next steps.”

IBEW said Friday its negotiating committee “will meet with CP today to continue bargaining,” while the Teamsters said their bargaining committee would be “ready to meet” in Calgary with CP and federal mediators at 1 p.m. Friday and on through the weekend.

According to a Teamsters memo Friday to affected employees, 2,472 participating employees voted 98.1 per cent in favour of rejecting CP’s offer. IBEW, which pegged its voter turnout at 89 per cent, reported 97.2 per cent of participating members rejected the offer. Both unions had recommended rejecting the offers.

CP said Friday it’s “disappointed with the outcome of the vote given that both final offers provided for significant improvements to wages, benefits and working conditions.”

The offers, CP said, were “consistent with agreements recently reached with other CP unions in both the United States and Canada.”

A statement was not immediately available from Hajdu’s office Friday. Her previous statements have not mentioned the option of federal back-to-work legislation.

CP’s engineers and conductors last walked off the job in February 2015, ending their strike after one day under threat of back-to-work legislation from then-labour minister Kellie Leitch.

The TCRC-led unit’s contract that year was reached through arbitration, as was their previous deal, which followed a two-week strike and back-to-work legislation in 2012.

‘Mutually beneficial’

The labour unrest resumes at CP as TCRC-led conductors and engineers at its Montreal rival, Canadian National Railway (CN), ratify a five-year collective agreement.

The deal, reached with the help of federal mediators, runs through to the end of December 2022, the company announced Wednesday.

CN said the agreement offers “wage and benefit improvements in each year of the agreement, in line with similar contracts in the industry, and modifies work rules that were of concern to both CN and engineers.”

The deal “demonstrates CN’s ongoing commitment to working together with our employees and the TCRC to address workplace issues, in a respectful and mutually beneficial manner,” CN chief operating officer Mike Cory said in a release. — AGCanada.com Network

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