Canada rail conductors enter mediation to avoid strike

29 September 2010 18:03  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS)--Some 2,700 Canadian National (CN) rail conductors have agreed to enter mediation talks to avoid a strike in a dispute over the scheduling of working hours, a union spokesman said on Wednesday.

Bryan Boechler, spokesman for Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, said the union would meet a mediator and CN later on Wednesday.

The news came after the union said earlier that a strike or lockout at CN could be imminent.

However, Boechler rejected unconfirmed rumours that the union had already served a 72-hour strike notice.

“We have no intention to serve a strike notice at this time,” and CN had not served a notice to lock workers out, Boechler told ICIS.

At stake were union demands to make changes to a far-reaching 24/7 "on call requirement," he said.

“We want to give some regularity to our people, so that they are better rested, with less chance of fatigue going to work,” he added.

A CN spokesman told media the company had contingency plans to continue operations in case of a labour disruption.

Canada’s chemical industry relies heavily on railcar transport to get many of its products to market. In Canada, chemical railcar traffic accounts for about 20% of overall railcar shipments, compared with around 10% in the US.

In 2007, an extended strike at CN caused massive disruptions in chemical, fertilizer and other shipments. That strike was eventually ended by back-to-work legislation.

Year-to-date to 18 September, Canadian chemical railcar shipments were 529,275, up 23.4% from 428,830 in the same period in 2009, according to the latest available data from the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

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By: Stefan Baumgarten
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