Over 3,000 Canadian National Railway workers on Strike
At 12:01 am Eastern Standard Time on November 19, about 3,200 Canadian National Railway conductors, trainpersons and yard workers went on strike, mainly over issues of workers’ health and safety, which are also issues of public health and safety. The workers are members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC).
In a press release dated November 16, the TCRC explained:), which served the legally required 72-hour strike notice during the evening of November 15. The TCRC reports that it was unable to reach a deal with CN, as the company remains unwilling to address the workers’ concerns.
The labour contract of these workers expired on July 23. The monopoly media are reporting that talks are ongoing with CN at this time.
In a press release dated November 16, the TCRC explained:
“CN currently requires TCRC members to operate trains alone from outside of the locomotive, hanging on to moving trains with one hand while operating a remotely controlled locomotive with the other. Railroaders are expected to do this in rain and in freezing temperatures, sometimes for distances of up to about 17 miles.
“The union’s demands to cease these dangerous practices have fallen on deaf ears and the company has refused to come to a satisfactory agreement at the negotiations table to adjust their operating practices in the interest of safety.
“The company also wants to make it more difficult to take time off and make employees work longer hours, in an attempt to get more work done with fewer people and to reduce staffing levels.
“‘Fatigue has been recognized by the Transportation Safety Board as a major safety problem in this industry. Too many railroaders are operating trains when they should be resting,’ explained the president of the TCRC, Lyndon Isaak. ‘For the safety of all Canadians, we cannot allow CN to make it even harder for our members to get the rest they need.’
“Moreover, CN is demanding that the union accept a lifetime cap on prescription drug coverage which would be tantamount to denying workers — and their families — proper treatment for some forms of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and other diseases.
“Wages are not a major sticking point in these negotiations.”
These are long-standing concerns of the rail workers, for which they have been presenting demands that remain unaddressed by the rail monopolies and the federal government.
Already, the monopoly media are playing their dirty role of paving the way for the Trudeau government to pass back-to-work legislation so that the just struggle of the workers is criminalized and the burning issues they are raising are once again swept under the rug, while workers and the public are placed at great risk. Just 12 hours after the CN workers went on strike, the Kenney government in Alberta called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to immediately recall Parliament and enact back-to-work legislation (Parliament is not scheduled to convene until December 5). In calling for the criminalization of the striking workers and the important issues they are raising, the Kenney government shamefully invoked the failure to build pipelines, saying this puts extra pressure on CN to transport oil by rail, and also claimed to be defending farmers, saying they need to transport their crops and are already facing problems with bad weather and the trade dispute with China.
This must not be permitted to happen. All workers and the public at large must express their support for the just demand of the CN workers for a negotiated contract that addresses their concerns and demands.