CN, union reach deal to end strike

Teamsters Canada and Canadian National Railway have reached a tentative deal to end a lengthy strike that had disrupted supply chains across the country.

CN announced today the 3,200 conductors and yard crews working on its mainline yards in Canada will return to work today at 2 p.m. local times across the country after reaching a tentative agreement with the company.

Yard assignments will begin at 6 a.m. local times tomorrow, CN said in a news release, adding there will be no job action during the ratification period.

Ratification votes are expected within eight weeks, it said.

“We want to thank our customers for their patience and support and assure them that CN is preparing to resume full rail operations as soon as possible,” JJ Ruest, president and chief executive officer of CN, said in the news release.

“I would also like to personally thank our employees who kept the railroad moving safely at a reduced capacity,” he said.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), the union representing workers, said in a statement that it’s pleased it reached a tentative agreement.

“I would like to thank our members for their incredible courage and solidarity,” François Laporte, president of TCRC, said in the statement. “I would also like to thank all the Teamster local unions from across different industries, all labour organizations and members of the public who supported us on the picket line.”

The TCRC said the tentative agreement must now be ratified by members via a secret ballot through electronic voting.

Before the vote happens, it said union meetings will be held across the country to explain the terms of the agreement to members. The process usually takes several months.

The TCRC won’t be releasing the agreement until members have had a chance to review the document first.

During the strike, however, members had demanded better working conditions, including worker rest breaks, as well as improved health benefits.

In its annual report, the Transportation Safety Board identified fatigue as a significant problem in the rail industry.

The strike lasted eight days and disrupted the movement of goods across Canada, given most of the country’s exports travel via rail.

Propane shortages, especially in Quebec, became a pressing issue because farmers needed fuel to dry grain.

During the strike, some provincial leaders and farming groups had urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reconvene Parliament early so the House of Commons could immediately pass back-to-work legislation.

Labour Minister Patty Hajdu and Transport Minister Marc Garneau had also met with CN and the TCRC during the dispute.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said on Twitter today he was encouraged to see a tentative agreement reached between the two sides.

Rail service needs to be restored as soon as possible, he added.

Contact jeremy.simes@producer.com

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