CN Threatens Monday Lockout If Union Doesn’t Accept Arbitration
Date: Feb 20, 2015
Source: Journal of Commerce

Canadian National Railway said it will lock out 4,800 union workers, some of whom are tied to its intermodal services, on Monday night if Unifor doesn’t agree to accept binding arbitration this weekend.

Although CN said it would deploy trained management personnel to take the places of Unifor employees in the event of a lockout, intermodal service would likely suffer. The potential deterioration in intermodal service comes as the railroad experiences a surge of volume as U.S. shippers divert cargo through Canada’s Port Metro Vancouver and Port of Prince Rupert to avoid U.S. West Coast port congestion.

Canada’s largest railroad said it would lock out the union employees involved in mechanical, intermodal, clerical and other types of work at 11 p.m. EST on Monday. The Friday announcement came after Unifor this week threatened to strike over a dispute on whether the railroad should pay into its community fund. The two sides have been negotiating a contract for six months, CN said.

“Our impasse is not about charity. CN already supports many charities and is willing to support charitable causes jointly with Unifor, but our principles are clear — we are not prepared to allow financial matters related to the union itself to take precedence over the interest of our employees,” CN President and CEO Claude Mongeau said in a statement.

Government intervention isn’t needed at this time, because the two sides can reach a deal via the arbitration process, he said.

CN has no desire to negotiate, Unifor President Jerry Dias said Friday, while warning that the railroad “has made the unilateral decision which will surely have negative consequences.”

The proposed three-year agreement offered by CN involved 3 percent wage increases in each year and benefit improvements, a deal the United Steelworkers and Teamsters Canada unions have already agreed to.

Unifor officials have made an additional request that the company contribute 5 cents per compensated hour to a community fund. Union officials say the community fund benefits organizations such as women’s shelters and food banks, but CN characterizes it differently. CN this week called it a “political and community action fund.”