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CN, union at loggerheads on wages, conditions as strike enters third day

10 per cent wage hike over three years, schedules ensuring two consecutive days off pledged: CN
CN rail workers strike at the CN MacMillan Yard in Vaughan, Ont., on Monday, June 20, 2022. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), which represents about 750 Canadian National Railway Co. employees, says signal and communication workers have walked off the job across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Canadian National Railway Co. says it has gone the extra mile to meet union demands amid a strike by signal and electrical workers, who say the concessions do not go far enough.

About 750 CN employees represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers walked off the job across the country Saturday morning.

“We have met or exceeded every one of the union’s demands in an effort to reach an agreement prior to the strike deadline. Unfortunately, we did not reach an agreement and the union has exercised its legal right to strike,” CN chief operating officer Rob Reilly said in an open letter to employees dated Monday.

The latest offer includes a 10 per cent wage hike over three years and better schedules ensuring two consecutive days off, he said.

Union negotiator Steve Martin said the company’s claim of meeting all demands is “truthful, but it is very misleading,” with offers to improve conditions and compensation amounting to small increases.

For example, a pledge to boost daily allowances would see meal per diems rise by $3.50 in the first year and $1 per day in each of the next two years, he said. “So you hope there’s no more increases in inflation in years two and three.”

CN said operations remain uninterrupted under its contingency plan. It continues to encourage the union to end the strike through an agreement or binding arbitration.

Martin said the union is not prepared to enter into arbitration at the moment, but that it filed a counter-offer Sunday afternoon and remains in contact with the company.

“If necessary, it is a tool that’s available that we’ll consider in due course,” he said of binding arbitration.

“As long as everything works, there will be no disruptions.”

In November 2019, CN went through an eight-day strike by more than 3,000 workers represented by Teamsters Canada that halted shipments and disrupted industries across the country.

The Montreal-based company hauls more than 300 million tonnes of commodities and consumer goods across the continent each year.

—Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

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