Rail strike deemed legal; union replaces negotiator

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OTTAWA, Ont. — The Canada Industrial Relations Board completed its assessment of the conductors strike at CN Rail, quashing the railways attempt to have the strike deemed illegal.

In an effort to bring the 11-day strike to a resolution, the federal government appointed a mediator to try to resolve the stoppage.

Elizabeth MacPherson, the federal governments chief labour mediator, was appointed to meet with the two sides; as Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn told media he wanted the dispute ended in hours, not days.

The United Transporatoin Union replaced its chief negotiator, Rex Beatty, with two UTU Canadian vice-presidents. Beatty was suspended by the union, along with three others, for not seeking assistance from the unions international president at the beginning of the strike.

John Armstrong and Robert Sharpe now head the UTU negotiating team, and are scheduled to meet Feb. 20 in Montreal with railroad negotiators, as well as Blackburn and MacPherson.

Pickets remained in place after the decision with the full support of UTU International President Paul Thompson.

“Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Sharpe have stepped into the shoes of the removed general chairpersons,” Thompson said. “They are now in charge. I have spoken with them. They are following the UTU Constitution, and I fully support their actions, which include keeping pickets up at CN facilities.”

— with files from The Canadian Press

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