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Canadian National, TCRC reach accord to end strike

(Bloomberg News circulated the following on December 3, 2009.)

MONTREAL — Canadian National Railway Co. said a strike by locomotive engineers is over following an agreement to continue negotiations and, if necessary, submit to binding arbitration.

“CN is pleased that an agreement has been reached to end the strike by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference immediately,” said E. Hunter Harrison, chief executive officer of Canada’s largest railroad, in a statement distributed by Canada NewsWire today.

The strike by 1,700 Canada-based locomotive engineers started Nov. 28 and threatened to stall shipments of coal, automobiles, lumber and chemicals within Canada and to the U.S. The government is withdrawing legislation introduced two days ago to settle the strike by naming an arbitrator.

Talks broke down after the company said Nov. 23 it planned to increase the engineers’ working mileage limit to 4,300 miles (6,919 kilometers) a month from 3,800 miles, making it equal to the cap set for conductors, and offer a 1.5 percent wage increase in exchange.

CN said it will roll back the mileage cap to the previous 3,800 miles and withdraw its plan to apply a 1.5 percent wage increase to TCRC members.

“CN and the TCRC have agreed to continue negotiations to resolve all the issues related to wages, benefits and work rules. If there is no agreement, the parties’ wages and benefits offers will be subject to final, binding arbitration,” the railway said in the statement.

Last Disruption

The last major labor disruption at the railway was less than three years ago. The government of Canada ended a two-month labor dispute in April 2007 by enacting legislation to force Canadian National conductors back to work. A federal arbitrator later decided in favor of Canadian National’s contract offer, Walter Spracklin, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets in Toronto, said in a Nov. 25 note to clients.

Canadian National fell 15 cents to C$56.15 at 4:10 p.m. in Toronto Stock Exchange trading. The shares have risen 25 percent this year.

Mark Hallman, a company spokesman, and Daniel Shewchuk, president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

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