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CN strike hit at midnight

MONTREAL, Que./BRAMPTON, Ont. -- Almost 5,000 Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union members walked off the job at Canad...

MONTREAL, Que./BRAMPTON, Ont. — Almost 5,000 Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union members walked off the job at Canadian National Railway locations across Canada at midnight last night.

The strike action came after 36 hours of deliberations in hopes of finding a solution to the current contract dispute. The meetings ended at 7:30 p.m. EST last evening in Montreal with no agreement in sight.

"Currently we are operating all of our freight trains as per schedulethe management is running them," said Mark Hallman, system director, media relations for CN.

Hallman said that some of the picketing is causing back up for the drayage companies going in and out of the terminal in Brampton.

"We are monitoring the situation very carefully to see if further action may be necessary," said Hallman, but wouldn’t expand on what further actions might be taken.

The union’s current contracts expired at the end of 2003. The workers had been offered a three-year deal with annual wage increases of three per cent, and even though the main issue still revolves around salary, working conditions and disciplinary procedures are just as important.

The strike includes CN shopcraft, clerical and intermodal yard employees across Canada.

One Ontario carrier representative said CN is making the whole thing out to be about money, but went on to say that according to CN workers, it is more about job security.

According to him, trucks are lined up at the terminal and picketers are slowing the truck traffic on the way out of the terminal, not on the way in.

"I had two guys in there at 11p.m. last night and they got out at five a.m. this morning, they went in before the strike started and they were finally served at 3:30 a.m. When then they got out of the gate, they then had to line up in front of the strikers for an hour and a half before they could move the extra 10 feet to get onto the pavement," he said.

A dispatcher form Ontario had a similar experience with one of his drivers.

"One of my guys was there early in the morning and he said he was one of the first ones in line, but it took him four and a half hours to get out after he picked up container. He also said that the wait has increased to more than six hours to get out of the terminal as the morning went on, so not many guys willing to go in," said the dispatcher.

According to the dispatcher, the situation is even worse in Montreal at the Taschereau yard on Hickmore Street.

One Montreal broker said he tried to send two trucks into the terminal this morning but the entire terminal was shut down.

"My drivers were saying that there are two 40-foot containers blocking both the exit and the entry gates and there are no trucks are being allowed through. CN is basically saying that they won’t do anything for now and our truckers refuse to cross the line," said the broker.

He said everybody is scrambling to try to find a way into the terminal, but the toll-free phone number for CN has even been suspended due to the labour dispute, so no information is available by phone.

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