Trains on fast track, workers fearful for pensions

A nine-day strike by the Teamsters union that halted Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. freight ended on Thursday afternoon after the government fast-tracked back-to-work legislation.

A nine-day strike by the Teamsters union that halted Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. freight ended on Thursday afternoon after the government fast-tracked back-to-work legislation.

Earlier in the day CPR conductors, engineers and locomotive operators continued to picket outside the rail yard in Red Deer. They maintain the company’s plans to cut pensions is unacceptable.

“We are hoping to get our pensions left alone,” said the local conductors chairman, Kevin Lovell, who was on the picket line.

“They want to reduce our pensions and it is significant, it is like 40 per cent,” he said.

The employees outside the rail yard in Red Deer were diligently picketing from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. On Saturday five different unions came to support them in their stance, Lovell said.

“What they have done is they’ve tried to line themselves up with Canadian National Railway Co.,” local engineers chairman Pete Ferreira said of CPR.

“But at the negotiation table certain aspects of CN’s collective agreement has been rejected,” he said.

“We don’t see how they ask for what CN has, then reject it.

While a veteran locomotive engineer pension is $73,000 a year, Ferreira says this is to compensate for the fact that they are run ragged from being on call “24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

“If they don’t come up with a pension solution they’re going to end up with a revolving door.”

Meanwhile CPR says the pension offer being made to the 4,800 striking employees is better than industry standard.

The company says the nine-day strike was “unnecessary.”

Last week CPR alluded to temporarily laying off an additional 1,400 employees, up from the 2,000 workers who were laid off on May 23.

CPR regional media liaison Kevin Hrysak said the company was hoping its employees would be ordered back to work on Thursday for a start up that would resume freight traffic today (Friday).

“We are not going to proceed with the additional layoffs,” he said on Thursday.

“We are in a great position for a fluid startup and we want to limit further impacts to our customers.”

Ferreira said the government will would appoint an arbitrator, who has 90 days to work with both parties.

He said they were advised that they would have 12 hours to prepare to go back to work.

He also added that they would not have an illegal strike and would abide by the government.

Labour Minister Lisa Raitt hoped train service would resume earlier in the week but the legislation was stalled after opposition parties argued it is workers’ right to strike.

The action stopped CP’s freight operations across Canada since May 23.

Raitt stated the strike would cost the Canadian economy an estimated $540 million per week.

jjones@bprda.wpengine.com