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As strike looms, Canadian National Railway cuts jobs

November 18, 2019   Don Horne




Canadian National Railway said it would cut management and union jobs, as the largest Canadian railroad operator grapples with an economic slowdown.

The company will lay off 1,600 employees in the United States and Canada, according to a report here by the Globe and Mail.

The announcement comes amid declining freight volumes as trade tensions have weighed on the North American economy.

The number of people to be laid off could rise if demand from rail customers continues to decline, the Canadian newspaper said, citing a person familiar with the matter.

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Canadian National Railway spokesman said the action, which includes sending some of its employees on temporary leave, has already begun across its network.

As this unfolds, Canada’s Teamsters labour union has given CN notice that it intends to strike starting Nov. 19, the two parties told Reuters on Saturday, following a stalemate in contract negotiations.

CN offered the Teamsters Canadian Rail Conference a binding arbitration, which the union declined, CN’s Chief Operating Officer Rob Reilly said in a statement.

“If a settlement cannot be reached this weekend, we will once again encourage the union leadership to accept binding arbitration as an alternative to disrupting the Canadian economy,” Reilly told Reuters. “We remain committed to constructive talks to reach an agreement without a work stoppage.”

Teamsters Canada, which is affiliated to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union, said it hopes to reach a settlement that can be ratified by its members but issued the railway formal 72 hours notice on Saturday of intent to strike.

“In the event that parties are unable to reach a negotiated settlement, over 3,000 conductors, trainpersons and yard workers will exercise their legal right to strike on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 0:01 a.m. ET”, Teamsters Canada said.

The union said the company wants to make employees work for longer hours and make it more difficult for them to take time off. It also said CN is demanding that the union accept a lifetime cap on prescription drug coverage.

Along with moving canola and wheat from western farms to ports, crude oil shippers in Alberta have increasingly used trains in the past year to reach U.S. refineries as an alternative to congested pipelines.

CN’s workers voted in favour of strike action in September after negotiations failed to produce a contract. The previous collective bargaining agreement expired on July 23.

(Reuters)


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