UPDATED: Unions, CP Rail come to agreement, avoiding work stoppage

Locomotive engineers, conductors and signals specialists seeking new collective agreements.

CP Rail and two unions with members representing engineers, locomotive conductors and signals specialists have come to an agreement to postpone job action ahead of a planned strike Friday night that was set to halt rail lines across Canada.

In a news release Friday afternoon, CP Rail said the Canadian Industrial Relations Board will be directed by the federal labour ministry to administer a ratiication vote on each of the company’s final offers to the two unions: the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

In separate news releases, both unions are encouraging their members to reject the offers, which do not address concerns involving fatigue and wages.

Both unions had issued 72-hour strike notices on Wednesday. The unions, which are coming off separate five-year agreements with the company, have been in negotiations for a new contract since September 2017.

The issues between all sides had been aired out in duelling press releases leading up till Friday’s deadline.

The TCRC claimed that CP Rail has been playing the ‘victim card’ during negotiations and accuses the company of manufacturing a crisis to force federal government intervention.

“If CP is a victim, then they’re a victim of their own aggressive behaviour and they must finally be feeling the consequences of their actions,” said TCRC President Doug Finnson.

The union said that cases of dismissed CP workers had risen by 500 per cent since a new system of labour relations was implemented.

There are more than 8,000 grievances filed against the company by locomotive engineers and conductors when in contrast, only 3,000 union members are employed by CP Rail across Canada.

The TCRC said arbitrators, the courts, and labour boards have found that CP had violated contracts and broken the law in many cases.

“The fact that CP feels they are being taken hostage by working-class Canadians is a reflection of their failed labour relations strategy,” said Finnson. “Rather than engaging in a public debate about CP’s failures, the Teamsters remain focused on collective bargaining and obtaining a fair contract for workers.”

According to the IBEW, which represents 360 signal maintainers across Canada, hurdles in the contract negotiations include collective agreement duration, expenses, company flexibility in hours of service, days off and work life balance.

The TCRC membership voted for strike authorization with a 94 per cent mandate, while the IBEW voted 98 per cent in favour of strike action.

A week ago, CP Rail said a significant gap in negotiations between all sides remained.

The company says it presented two three- and five-year contract options to both unions on Monday.

“Serving a strike notice is part of the bargaining process that unions must follow if they want to be able to strike,” said Keith Creel, CP President and CEO. “We remain committed to achieving a win-win solution and urge the two unions to work closely with us and the federal mediators to achieve a positive outcome as soon as possible in the hours leading up to the deadline.”

Issues with the TCRC include 108 outstanding demands as opposed to five from CP Rail, according to the company, which says will add $250 million over three years to TCRC payroll costs.

The company touts new agreements that were made last year with a number of unions representing CP employees that include TCRC – Maintenance of Way, United Steel Workers, and CP Police Association.

The TCRC and CP Rail had negotiated a one-year extension of the recently expired agreement in September however, it was not ratified by union members.

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