BLE strikes RailAmerica shortline in Nova Scotia

In an effort to obtain their first-ever contract, members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers are on strike against the Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway (CB&CNS), a subsidiary of RailAmerica.

The 34 striking locomotive engineers and conductors elected the BLE as their designated collective bargaining representative in October of 2000. They walked off the job at 7 a.m. on February 6 over the following issues: Term of agreement; seniority; work scheduling; wages, and rest; crew consist; material change in working conditions; vacation; pension plan; training; and spare boards.

Picket lines have been set up in Sydney, Port Hawkesbury, and at the railway's headquarters in Stellarton.

Dave Swales, local chairman of BLE Division 900 (Stellarton, N.S.), said that morale among the strikers remains high.

"The members are out here (on picket lines) and we fully intend to keep solidarity and do what we have to do," he said.

Negotiations began on a first contract in early 2001, according to BLE Special Representative Robert J. Toole.

"With no successful results, a Provincial conciliator was requested for assistance, and still no results," Brother Toole said. "The BLE asked for and received a strike mandate from our members, and in early August, we were in a strike position. The BLE bargaining committee continued to negotiate with CB&CNS and on Jan. 21, CB&CNS made an offer that was not supported by the negotiating committee or the members."

The bargaining committee for the BLE is: Canadian Director & International Vice-President Gilles Hallé; General Chairman Rene LeClerc; Special Rep Bob Toole; and Local Chairman Swales.

The CB&CNS operates 245 miles of track throughout Nova Scotia, hauling approximately 26,000 carloads of limestone, lumber, grain and scrap metal each year. Rail America is the world's largest operator of regional and shortline railroads.

Brother Toole also said the striking members are accepting donations to their strike fund. BLE members in the U.S. and Canada wishing to support their striking brothers can make donations to:

BLE Division 900
P.O. Box 3132
Stellarton, N.S., Canada
B0K 1S0
(The Cape Breton Post contributed to this report.)

© 2002 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers