MONTREAL: More than 6,000 mechanical and other workers at CN and CP have voted in favour of striking in support of their union negotiators.
The Canadian Auto Workers union (CAW) said the workers supported a strike mandate in order to demonstrate their opposition to demands for concessions.
“Our members have spoken loudly and clearly about their issues and concerns,” said Ken Lewenza, president of the CAW.
The CN locals represent 3,400 shopcraft, clerical and intermodal employees, along with 575 owner-operator truck drivers for CNTL, a CN subsidiary. The three collective agreements with CN expired at the end of 2010.
Workers voted between 82 and 100 percent in favour of a strike, if necessary. The union has set a strike deadline of January 25 at 12:01am. Negotiations at CN began in September and are set to resume on January 17 in Montreal, while talks with CP in Montreal are underway and expected to run through the weekend.
CP Local 101 represents 2,100 mechanical service workers who inspect and repair railcars and locomotives. They voted 89 percent in favour of a strike, if necessary. That strike deadline is February 8 at 12:01am. CAW national representative Brian Stevens said the dispute with CP involves both monetary and non-monetary issues, including the railway’s plans to close its Ogden shops in Calgary.
CP spokesman Mark Seland said the railway is optimistic a negotiated settlement can be reached. It plans to operate the railway in the event of a work stoppage after February 8.
Seland said concessions being sought by the railway are offset by wage and benefit improvements that are in line with what its five other unions have accepted over the past two years. CP has trained 1,200 managers and has a contingency plan to operate should a strike happen.
CN said the railway is confident new collective agreements can be reached without a disruption to service. The railway’s 2,700 conductors, trainmen and yardmen ratified new three-year contracts last November with wage increases and improvements in benefits.