CN and Teamsters reach tentative agreement to avoid rail shutdown

A late deal on Feb. 5 put an end to a potential strike by more than 3,000 railworkers.

A late deal on Feb. 5 put an end to a potential strike by more than 3,000 rail workers.

After serving strike notice earlier in the day for job action that would have begun at 12:01 a.m. On Feb. 8, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference and CN Rail announced a tentative deal to keep trains moving across the country. Details of the three-year tentative agreement are not being made public pending union ratification, but CN vice-president and chief operating officer Jim Vena said the timing of the deal could not have been better.

“This will ensure continued service to our customers in a very challenging environment where extreme winter conditions have hampered CN operations and affected service levels. CN has offered to work closely with the union leadership to explain the terms of the agreement to union members over the next 45 days to help ensure a successful ratification of the agreement,” he said.

For its part, the union acknowledged potential intervention from the federal government helped speed the process along.

“This was not easy. The Minister of Labour announcing the intention to introduce legislation that would prevent a strike from taking place certainly presented significant challenges,” read a statement from the bargaining committee.

Earlier this month the Teamsters announced that its membership had rejected a tentative agreement reached at the end of October, with 61 per cent of members voting in opposition due in part to concerns about the removal of the contractual rest provision. The new agreement is said to be essentially the same as the rejected deal “with modifications to address those things that the Local Chairman raised as presenting the most difficulties”.