Montreal/Fraser Valley (CP/Bloomberg) — About 3,200 Canadian National Railway conductors, train persons and yard workers are on strike after the union and company failed to reach a deal by the midnight deadline.
The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, the union representing the employees, gave the required 72-hour strike notice on the weekend.
Union spokesman Christopher Monette says they are still in talks with CN in hopes of reaching a negotiated settlement and ending the labour dispute as soon as possible.
The union has said passenger rail services in the country’s three biggest cities would not be affected by the strike.
It represents workers at commuter rail services including Go Transit in Toronto, Exo in Montreal and the West Coast Express in Vancouver, where passengers would remain unaffected.
The workers, who have been without a contract since July 23, say they’re concerned about long hours, fatigue and what they consider dangerous working conditions.
The dispute comes as CN confirmed Friday that it was cutting jobs across the railway as it deals with a weakening North American economy that has eroded demand.
The BC Council of Forest Industries issued a statement expressing significant concern about the impact of rail transport disruptions from the strike at CN Rail.
“90% of the forest products we produce are sent to export markets in North America and around the world,” said Susan Yurkovich, President & CEO of the BC Council of Forest Industries. “We rely on critical transportation infrastructure and reliable rail service to get our products to market and serve our customers.”
“A disruption of this critical transportation network will adversely impact BC forest companies at a time when we are already facing significant challenges and increasing competition from around the globe,” added Yurkovich. “It will create further hardship for the workers and communities who are already feeling the impacts from mill closures and curtailments.”
“Forest products make up about 10% of all rail traffic that moves through Western Canada, and in many cases, our members’ operations are in areas where rail service is the only economic transport option,” added Yurkovich. “We urge all parties to find immediate resolution.”