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Tentative Deal Reached In CN StrikeCN Rail, union reach deal
February 24th 2007
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CN Rail and the union representing nearly 3,000 striking workers have reached a tentative agreement to end a two-week walkout, which has crippled freight service nationally and taken a serious toll on some industries.
After reaching the deal during talks in Montreal on Saturday, the United Transportation Union said it is urging the 2,800 conductors and yard service workers to return to work while members vote on the deal.

Technically, the workers who walked off the job on Feb. 10, crippling freight service nationally would continue to be on strike until the deal was ratified.

"We are retaining our strike mandate during the ratification process; however, we are urging all members to return to work during the ratification process," the union's Canadian vice presidents and chief negotiators, John Armstrong and Robert Sharpe, said in a press release.

"We are hopeful that this will greatly reduce the possibility of the Canadian government continuing to move forward on back-to-work legislation until such time as the ratification process is completed and the results known."

Mark Hallman, the director of communications for CN Rail in Toronto, said management will continue to fill in for striking workers until the strike is over.

"I can't speculate when operations will return to normal. I can't make any predictions," he told CBC News Online on Saturday. "We are pleased that we have reached this agreement."

Strike had serious economic impact

The federal government brought in back-to-work legislation on Friday to end the strike, but Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn said it could take four or five days to pass it.

Blackburn told the House of Commons that the government could not allow the strike to continue because it was causing layoffs, backlogs and supply shortages throughout industries and in communities across the country.

According to the Western Canadian Shippers' Coalition, the strike has been having a serious impact on producers of forest products, coal, sulphur and grain.

The strike has not affected Via Rail or commuter rail traffic in Montreal and Toronto.

Details of deal not yet public

The union said in its press release Saturday that details of the proposed contract would not be made public until members receive information about the tentative deal. The main issues in the strike were wages and benefits.

Armstrong and Sharpe said union members will receive details of the agreement along with their mail-in ballots. They said the union thinks the tentative deal is currently the "best option" for members.

"The tentative agreement allows UTU members the opportunity to have a voice and exercise their democratic right in this crucial decision," they said.

Ballots will be counted at union offices in Ottawa on March 26.

With files from the Canadian Press

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