CN Rail labor negotiations update - advocating for voluntary binding arbitration

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CN Rail labor negotiations update - advocating for voluntary binding arbitration

November 21, 2019 - 11:43
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MONTREAL, Nov. 21, 2019 (Press Release) -We would like to provide an update on CN’s collective bargaining with the Teamsters Canadian Rail Conference (TCRC-CTY), which represents approximately 3,200 of CN employees working as train conductors and railyard coordinators in Canada.

For the last several months, CN has been working with the TCRC-CTY to negotiate a new collective agreement. Despite our efforts, the union leadership has rejected our offers and called a strike that is impacting our employees, our customers, and the Canadian economy. We have proposed to present our arguments to a neutral arbitrator to end this dispute, and we hope the union will be willing to do the same. Through binding arbitration, a neutral arbitrator would hear our positions and make a decision.

Earlier this year, CN concluded 11 agreements with unions, representing approximately 7,000 union members. In 10 of those ratified agreements, the Company provided annual compensation adjustments better than inflation. Those agreements improved benefits, including short-term disability, basic life insurance, maternity leave, vision care, and dental; and also included employee share purchase plans. The final agreement covers 1,000 independent owner/operators working for CNTL and includes compensation adjustments in line with the other agreements. Moreover, while the current average salary of a Canadian conductor is $114,000 plus benefits, including a defined benefits pension plan, the union is seeking wage and benefit improvements beyond those negotiated this year with Unifor and another bargaining unit of the TCRC.

Safety is a core value at CN. Although the union has claimed that the strike was about safety, those statements do not reflect our discussions. For the safety concerns raised, we have proposed viable solutions because we want all employees to go home safely at the end of their shift.

We have committed to work with the union on all issues that are important to them. We have local Health and Safety committees and a national senior policy committee, which have been functioning for decades and are comprised of senior union and Company leaders. These well-functioning committees are designed to discuss both local and national issues and find solutions.

As you may know, railcars may be coupled with the use of a remotely controlled locomotive while crews are safely positioned. No employee is ever asked to work unsafely. Any employee that feels fatigued or has safety concerns has a duty to report it and use alternative means to complete his/her assigned task safely. CN’s negotiating team and the operations experts on our committee feel that our demands are in line with improvements to our employees’ work environment and our customers’ business.

Negotiations continue with the help of the federally appointed mediators and we remain committed to working with the union and the mediators in order to reach an agreement that is fair to all parties. We have also taken reasonable steps to end the economic impact by offering binding arbitration with a neutral arbitrator chosen by the parties or appointed by the federal government. Additionally, we have offered to continue bargaining until April 1, 2020 to allow more time to come to an agreement. Unfortunately, the TCRC-CTY leadership rejected these offers.

While we continue to negotiate, we understand the employees’ decision and respect their right to picket peacefully, safely, and in a manner that does not disrupt or delay our operations.

All of us at CN are very aware of and regret the impact that the strike is having on our customers, supply chain partners, the Canadian economy, trade in general, and the public. We remain committed to finding an equitable resolution and look forward to getting back to re-establishing the reliable service to which our customers are accustomed.

We thank all employees, customers, valued partners, and stakeholders for their ongoing support.

JJ Ruest
President and Chief Executive Officer