Rail Canada Traffic Controllers stike at CP Rail

More than 200 members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers' Rail Canada Traffic Controllers went on nationwide strike on June 18 over health care, salary, and pension issues.

"We will continue to support these brothers and sisters until the issues in question are resolved," said BLE International President Don M. Hahs. "We still believe that what these members are asking for is fair and are disappointed that the carrier has allowed things to come to this point."

CP Rail, Canada's No. 2 railroad, is using managers to fill the void left by the striking rail traffic controllers. Striking BLE members have warned the Canadian media that this has created a potentially dangerous situation. They also say their job action has CP operating at no more than 40 percent, and they promise things will get worse.

The negotiations between RCTC and Canadian Pacific began on September 1, 2002 with both the union and the company serving notice to commence collective bargaining as required by the Canadian Labour Code. In March 2003, the union filed for conciliation due to the fact that Canadian Pacific was placing additional demands on the RCTC and the negotiations had stalled. The government appointed a conciliator, and the parties had 60 days to reach an agreement. This period ended on May 27 with no agreement reached. A cooling off period was legally mandated and it ended on June 18.

RCTC members are seeking a pay scale similar to that of rail traffic controllers employed by Canadian National. The BLE-RCTC also opposed Canadian Pacific's attacks on its work rules and the company's demands for changes in the RCTC's benefits package.

"At present, we have Labour Board charges pending against Canadian Pacific Railway for failure to bargain in good faith," said BLE-RCTC General Chairman Jim Ruddick. "In our complaint, we allege that since negotiations began on September 21, 2002, the company has promoted an inordinate number of our members into management positions in an attempt to undermine our union.

"We also assert that the company is training former Rail Traffic Controllers, who voluntarily left some time ago, (to replace workers on strike)."

The members of RCTC-BLE perform safety critical duties for the railway and are held to a high standard of performance. Rail traffic controllers (RTC) are considered to be the eyes and ears of the railway system, and have a high level of responsibility and standards that they must adhere to. The RTC work with limited supervision and are responsible for the movement of trains over an assigned territory.

The position has been compared, in terms of responsibility, to that of an air traffic controller. The lives of individuals responsible for the movement of trains, rail inspection equipment and rail repair equipment depend on the controllers.

On June 26, the BLE-RCTC held demonstrations in Calgary and in Montreal at Windsor Station. The striking members received support from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Canadian Auto Workers and fellow-CP Rail unions.


Robert Bouvier, President of Teamsters Canada, joins BLE Canadian Director Gilles Halle, BLE Local Chairman Dan McGiver, and dozens of BLE and Teamsters members as the striking Rail Traffic Controllers rally on the picket lines in front of Windsor Station in Montreal on June 26.



© 2003 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers