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Striking rail workers fuming over Ottawa’s return-to-work legislation

OTTAWA, Ont. -- Striking United Transportation Union members are criticizing Ottawas move to legislate them back t...


OTTAWA, Ont. — Striking United Transportation Union members are criticizing Ottawas move to legislate them back to work as support for what they believe is an illegal union-breaking strategy by CN Rail.

The Canadian chapter of the United Transportation Union, representing 2,800 conductors and yard workers, has vowed to resist CN Rails plan to sign separate labor accords on a regional basis.

The back-to-work bill, passed by Parliament late last night, aims to resolve the dispute by forcing the union and CN Rail to submit their best proposals to the Canada Industrial Relations Board, which would then settle on one plan. In justifying its push for the return-to-work legislation, the ruling Conservative party said it was concerned the strike was causing serious damage to the economy. The bill still needs to go through the Senate, but it is expected that it will likely take effect before the week is out.

The UTU yesterday accused CN Rail of effectively casting a chill over its relationship with its key union after the railroad issued a release claiming a national deal in the labor dispute was not possible because of continuing internal conflicts within the UTU and asking for regional settlements.

The UTU shot back that CN Rail was trying to fragment the bargaining structure so as to weaken the UTUs ability to gain improvements through collective bargaining a single national collective agreement.

CN Rail appears intent to act the companys objective of redrawing the boundaries of organized railway workers in Canada into four fragmented regional bargaining units. This, despite the fact that the UTU is the certified bargaining agent for the national bargaining unit, from coast to coast to coast, the UTU stated in a release.

UTUs Canadian Vice Presidents John Armstrong and Bob Sharpe fired off a leter to CN Rail stating that they believe that CN has acted contrary to the Canada Labour Code by pressing recognition issues during the ongoing strike action and lockouts and by purporting to negotiate in the media and not at the bargaining table.

No one knows better than our membership across Canada that your threatening press release amounts to bad faith and it is not designed to make every effort to renew the expired collective agreement, stated Sharpe and Armstrong. If CN Rail is attempting to push the bargaining parties farther apart by creating fears of greater uncertainty and disruption to CN operations, it has succeeded by raising the specter of fragmentation.

UTU members went on a nation-wide strike for 15 days in February and resumed rotating picket lines last weeks after rejecting a contract deal.


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