Rail locks out picketing workers as dispute
Published: April 11th 2007
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CN Rail locked out hundreds of unionized
employees Wednesday afternoon after they began
rotating strikes at five locations across
The dispute flared up again after union members
rejected a tentative deal struck in February to
end a 15-day walkout.
United Transportation Union workers in Ontario,
British Columbia and Nova Scotia began rotating
strikes late Tuesday to force Canada's largest
rail carrier to return to the bargaining table.
But CN said it would lock out all 280 workers in
locations where picketing had been taking place:
Vancouver, Kamloops, B.C., and in the Ontario
communities of Oakville, Brantford and Aldershot.
"CN is a scheduled railroad and we cannot run
scheduled freight operations without scheduled
manpower," CN spokesman Mark Hallman said.
GO Transit — the commuter train service that
serves Toronto and surrounding communities,
including Oakville — has so far been able to run
its trains without the CN dispute causing major
problems. The union must give three days notice
if it plans to withdraw service from GO.
'It's not about hurting businesses'
Union representative Scott Montani told CBC News
in the morning that the labour action would
rotate among various Canadian cities in order to
ensure freight keeps moving.
"It's not about hurting Canadian businesses.
It's about getting CN back to the table. The
union doesn't want to hurt anybody," Montani
said, adding that the strikes would not disrupt
Picket co-ordinator David Moorhouse said workers
want to send CN the message that more money and
a safer workplace are key.
"We're going to do what it takes to get CN back
to the table. We don't want to disrupt the
network," he said.
Hours before the lockout announcement, CN said
it was prepared to return to the bargaining
table, but warned it would not change the
substance of its offer.
"CN is prepared to meet the union," said
spokesman Mark Hallman.
"They are interested in renewing talks and at
the end of the day we just need to take a look
at what the parties are talking about and see if
we can make progress."
Earlier walkout hurt industries
Federal Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn
said the government has back-to-work legislation
ready to go if it is needed.
The legislation was tabled in the House of
Commons on Feb. 24, before the tentative deal
was worked out to end a 15-day strike by CN's
conductors and yard-service workers. That
walkout crippled freight service and took a
serious toll on some industries.
"A negotiated settlement is always preferable to
legislation," Blackburn said in a news release.
However, back-to-work legislation might be held
up because the Commons is on an Easter recess
until next Monday.
Nearly 80 per cent of the United Transportation
Union workers who cast ballots voted against the
agreement Tuesday night. Voter turnout for the
2,800 members of the union was about 84 per
The union's Canadian leadership had recommended
that members endorse the one-year deal,
retroactive to Jan. 1, that was to provide a
three per cent wage hike and $1,000 signing
Hallman said the company has a contingency plan.
The company has said it will be using managers
to keep the system running.
"We're going to provide the best level of
service we can," Hallman said.
With files from the Canadian Press