The union representing more than 4,800 CN employees announced on Thursday morning it would be holding a strike vote next week.
Unifor president Jerry Dias said the decision to turn to the membership was made after several months of unsuccessfully trying to negotiate a new collective agreement with the company. However, the results of the vote will not be immediately known.
“We will be taking a strike with members all over the country and we are going to take our time. We will be stretching the vote out over three weeks. Why? Because we want to give CN time the opportunity to consider the proposals … we are also doing this so the customer base has time to react and make good business decisions,” said Dias during a media call on Feb. 19.
“We had expected and hoped to be able to reach an agreement without taking a strike vote.”
One of the more contentious issues of the negotiations is a proposal from Unifor that would require CN to contribute five cents per member per hour worked into the union’s Canadian Community Fund, a proposal that was accepted during recent negotiations with CP Rail. However, CN said that is simply a non-starter for the company.
“This is an issue of principle for us. CN is prepared to co-invest in charitable causes, but we are not prepared to support such a union agenda,” said Claude Mongeau, chief executive of CN, in a statement to media.
“We are offering several alternatives, including binding arbitration, to keep the process moving forward toward resolution. We will continue to use our best efforts to reach an agreement with Unifor.”
However, Dias said ensuring CN contributes to the fund is the right thing for the union to do.
“It’s not enough for railways to go through communities, they need to give back to the communities. These are companies that are very profitable and are making their money by going through communities. That is why this round of bargaining is about more than just wages and benefits for our members,” he said.