Stalemate continues in CN strike as the railway rejects latest union proposal

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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TORONTO - Talks to resolve a strike by Canada National Railways (TSX:CNR) locomotive engineers remained at a standstill Sunday as the two sides were at loggerheads over whether to return to the bargaining table.
CN rejected the latest proposal by Teamsters Canada Rail Conference to get negotiations back on track.
Through federal mediators, the union offered late Saturday night to submit the wage portion of the dispute to binding arbitration upon the resolution of other outstanding issues.
But a company spokesman said Sunday the railway reviewed the offer and found it unreasonable.
"This proposal would not end the strike," said Mark Hallman.
"Rather, it would continue the negotiations for an undefined period of time over the same work rules we've been discussing for 14 months."
Management is demanding the union submit all outstanding issues to binding arbitration, not just wage matters.
Union president Daniel Shewchuk said late Sunday they were working to break the log jam without undermining collective bargaining rights.
"We're trying to get the company to negotiate with us on the balance of the issues," he said.
"We want to negotiate. We don't simply just want to say: 'This is it. We can't agree. Let's go to binding arbitration.' That doesn't solve anybody's problem and all it does is affect long term labour relations."
Talks broke down late Friday and the 1,700 engineers walked off the job shortly after.
Canada's largest railway wants to imposed a 1.5 per cent wage increase and raise the maximum distance engineers can travel in one month by 500 miles (800 kilometres) to 4,300 miles (6,900 kilometres.)
The union argues the hike in the mileage cap would require some workers to work seven days a week, with no time off, and cause layoffs.
Canada's labour minister has also urged the union to accept binding arbitration and offered to appoint an arbitrator as soon as it gave the OK.
Rona Ambrose also vowed not to support the labour disruption at a time when Canada's economy is still recovering.
Shewchuk said he understands Ottawa's position and weighed the economic concerns before deciding to strike. Instead he blamed the company for its decision last week to alter the terms of the collective agreement.
"(It) basically forced our hand," he said.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff criticized the federal government for the handling of the strike Sunday and urged them to get negotiations back on track.
In a statement, Ignatieff said the Conservatives needed to protect businesses and shippers who rely on the cross-country rail network from suffering economic losses.
Ignatieff said Canadians need a fully functioning transportation system - which means they need their government to get this dispute resolved.
It's unclear how much effect, if any, the strike is having on CN operations. The rail company is trying to keep trains running by having supervisors and managers who are qualified engineers take over the strikers' duties.
"We continue to execute on our contingency plan," Hallman said.
"We're prepared to do that as long as it takes, to get the settlement we require."

Organizations: Canada National Railways, TSX, Conservatives

Geographic location: Canada, TORONTO, Ottawa

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