CN Rail, union reach deal after gov’t threatens back-to-work law

Posted by Bloomberg

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TORONTO (Reuters) – Canadian National Railway Co reached a deal on Wednesday to avert a strike by conductors and yard workers after the Conservative government said it would use back-to-work legislation to keep the country’s biggest railway operating.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference gave notice earlier in the day that it intended to strike as soon as Saturday after members voted against a tentative agreement with Canada’s biggest rail operator.

A new three-year agreement is a modification of the tentative pact reached in October, union general chairman Roland Hackl said.

“I’m glad there’s not going to be a strike,” he said, shortly after the deal was reached. He said no details would be released until the deal is ratified.

A work stoppage by about 3,000 conductors, train and yard workers would have disrupted a vast cross-country network that ships goods ranging from lumber and crude oil to grains and automobiles.

Kellie Leitch, the country’s labor minister, had said at a press conference in Ottawa that the government was preparing back-to-work legislation to “protect Canada’s economy and Canadian grain farmers.”

The Conservatives, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, have been quick to intervene in recent years to avoid major labor disruptions. In 2012, it legislated striking workers back to work at both CN rival Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) and Air Canada.

The swift government response came after the union told Reuters that CN said in a morning meeting it was “done negotiating” and workers must choose between an existing labor deal and walking off the job.  

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