Unifor taking strike votes at CN

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by Emily Atkins

Unifor’s CN workers will be taking strike votes this week.

Unifor’s two national bargaining committees continued contract negotiations with CN the week of February 13-17 in Montreal. This was the fifth bargaining session with the company since bargaining opened on October 19, 2022.

Unifor’s national collective agreements with CN that cover the working conditions of more than 4,000 workers, expired on December 31, 2022. Two bargaining committees are involved, Council 4000 and Local 100. Local 100 represents locomotive and freight-car mechanics, electricians and apprentices. Council 4000 represents over 3,000 workers including workers at CN, Intermodal, CNTL and CN Savage Alberta Railway.

The union filed a Notice of Dispute with Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) on December 16, 2022 and has been negotiating with assistance of federal conciliators since then.

The union said in a media release that although substantial progress has been made towards its bargaining aims, a couple of outstanding issues remain with Local 100. The union said these include “the employer making changes to the existing substance testing process under the Company’s drug and alcohol policy.”

“CN’s offer falls well short of what the membership would see as being fair, especially in consideration of the company’s recent announcement of $1.42 billion in profits in the last three months of 2022,” the union said.

CN’s concessions include, but are not limited to; accrued vacation entitlements, removal of the consent to early retirement (age 55), a flex benefit plan that in many cases does not expand on benefit coverage and will see members have to pay out of their own pocket for certain benefits, such as dental.

Additionally, the company wants Council 4000 members to forfeit a January 2 general holiday. The union added that CN has not confirmed if they will continue with their contributions to Unifor’s Paid Education Fund, which is used to educate and train  members and local leadership in dealing with various workplace issues in the interests of its members.