Arbitrator settles CNR labour dispute
Source: The Edmonton Journal
Published: July 21, 2007

Picks company's plan for a three-year contract for 2,800 workers.

VANCOUVER - A government arbitrator imposed a contract Friday for train crews at Canadian National Railway Co., whose strike this winter bitterly divided the union.

The arbitrator, whose mandate was to choose between offers from CN and the United Transportation Union, selected the railway's plan for a three-year contract that includes wage increases of 3 per cent annually.

Federal Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn, who announced the settlement, said the government would have preferred the sides had negotiated a settlement on their own.

The 2,800 conductors, brakemen and switch crews on Canadian National's network in Canada staged a 15 day national walkout in February, dramatically slowing operations on the country's largest railway and prompting some layoffs at its customers.

The UTU's international headquarters complained the walkout was begun without its approval and fired the officials who had called it.

A one-year deal hastily negotiated to avoid government back-to-work legislation was rejected by workers.

Ottawa ordered employees back to work in April after the company locked out workers at UTU locals that resumed picketing when the first deal was rejected. The legislation mandated binding arbitration.

The dispute left the union divided with opponents of the international headquarters calling for a vote to have the workers switch to the Teamsters union, which already represents Canadian National's locomotive engineers.