Canada : CN Rail union warns against govt interference as strike looms
(Adds CN Rail comment)
TORONTO Feb 19 (Reuters) - A union that represents 4,800workers at Canadian National Railway Co said onThursday it would not accept government interference in itscontract talks with
the country's No. 1 railroad operator.
Unifor leaders said on a conference call they would proceedwith a vote to strike. The remarks came after CN said Wednesdayit would unilaterally change a labor pact covering mechanical,clerical and intermodal staff represented by Unifor by Feb. 20,if a new accord wasn't agreed by that time.
"We are not looking for a dispute, but it is clear to usthat CN is," Unifor President Jerry Dias said. He accused therailway of forcing a stand-off in the hopes that the governmentwould step in to avert a strike and force the two parties into abinding arbitration process.
Dias said Unifor was not going to accept a governmentsettlement, but declined to say what recourse the union wouldhave if the Canadian government uses back-to-work legislation inthe event of a strike.
CN said on Wednesday that it had already offered to submitall outstanding issues to a binding arbitration process.
The union said the vote to strike would begin as early asnext week and take about three weeks to complete. It plans toset a strike deadline close to the end of March to allow CNcustomers to make alternative arrangements.
"CN is trying to get a discounted settlement, by counting onthe government to cut off collective bargaining with back towork legislation," said Dias. "Companies like CN should not beleaning on government to interfere in collective bargaining."
CN, in an email on Thursday, said its current offer wouldensure that Unifor employees would remain the highest paid oftheir trade in the Canadian rail industry. It called Unifor'sstrike vote move unfortunate and unnecessary.
The company said its principles will not be shaken by amonth-long process to seek a strike mandate that only serves toraise uncertainty in the company's customer base.
CN Rail shares were down less than a percent at C$87.71 inafternoon trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Bernadette Baum andChristian Plumb)