Saturday, November 28, 2009

GO during CN strike

CN strike won't affect GO trains

MONTREAL–Canadian National Railway locomotive engineers walked off the job at midnight Friday after mediated contract talks collapsed.

But despite sharing several railways in the GTA, CN representatives say GO Transit riders will not be affected by the locomotive engineers strike.

"There is not going to be any impact on GO Transit because of this strike. No impact at all," said CN communications director, Mark Hallman."GO has its own crews, so they are not affected by this strike."

CN Rail owns a large network of railways in the Toronto area and GO Transit operates within the network, said Hallman. "We're the landlord and GO is effectively the tenant," he explained.

1,700 engineers walked out at midnight Friday after mediated contract negotiations between the two sides collapsed. No further talks between CN representatives and the Teamsters union have been scheduled at this time.

Hallman said supervisors and managers who are qualified engineers would take over operation of the locomotives to minimize any possible disruption of freight service.

"We're going to try to provide the best service we can, given the circumstances," Hallman said.

"We will advise our customers and other stakeholders on the state of operations as we move forward."

Hallman added the strike would not affect Via Rail passenger service or commuter rail service in the Montreal area.

Hallman said CN is disappointed by the union's rejection of its request for binding arbitration to settle the dispute.

Teamsters union spokesman Stephane Lacroix said a strike could have been postponed had the railway agreed to negotiate and not impose a 1.5 per cent wage increase and revised mileage caps.

Canada's largest railway invoked contractual changes three days after negotiations broke off Nov. 20 following 14 months of talks.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference followed by issuing a 72-hour strike notice. It said the company was effectively locking out employees by unilaterally changing terms and conditions of the collective agreement.

The union has said that raising the monthly mileage cap by 500 miles to 4,300 miles would require some locomotive engineers to work seven days a week with no time off and cause layoffs.

CN says its locomotive engineers work on average 37 hours per week under the current 3,800-mile cap and the 4,300-mile cap will increase that on average to approximately 41 hours.

The railway also said that rather than working between 15 and 17 days per month on average, the locomotive engineers will work between 16 and 18 days per month on average.

The railway's last contract offer included a two per cent wage increase in each of 2009, 2010, 2011 and three per cent for 2012, along with standard benefit improvements. That was contingent on concluding a stable long-term agreement.

The most recent strike at CN ended after more than two months in 2007 when Parliament enacted back-to-work legislation affecting 2,800 conductors represented by the United Transportation Union.

The railway estimated the strike cost it $50 million in operating income and $35 million in net income.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, CN's shares gained 58 cents at $55.58 in Friday trading.

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