CALGARY – CN Railway will lock 4,800 workers out on Monday, if their union does not come to a settlement with the company by the end of the weekend.
“The differences separating the company and the union are as clear as they will ever be, and they will not become any clearer over a month-long strike mandate announced [Thursday] by Unifor,” CN president and CEO Claude Mongeau said in a press release Friday announcing the lockout.
One of the key issues dividing CN and Unifor is the union’s insistence that the company contribute cash to its political and community action fund.
Mr. Mongeau said it would not contribute to the fund as “an issue of principle,” but would be willing to co-contribute to charitable causes with the union.
CN said its five-month-long negotiations with Unifor hit an impasse this week, after the union had struck a four-year deal with rival Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. last weekend to avoid a strike.
Mr. Mongeau said Unifor wanted his company to match CP’s offer, “but that’s not the right deal pattern.”
“CN is highly profitable, even more so than CP Rail, yet somehow it is claiming it cannot meet the pattern agreement that we established at CP,” Unifor president Jerry Dias said in a Thursday press release.
At the same time, Mr. Dias said his union would vote on whether or not to strike next week after what the union called “months of futile negotiations.”
Strike voting would take up to three weeks, but CN has instead threatened to lock all of Unifor’s 4,800 members out on Monday night.
Rather than match the offer made by Calgary-based CP Rail, Mr. Mongeau said CN’s offers to Unifor were in line with what the company has offered to other unions, including the Teamsters.
Unifor is the largest union represented at CN, and their collective agreement with the company expired at the end of 2014.
This week, Mr. Dias said that CN was hoping the federal government would draft back-to-work legislation that would prevent Unifor members from striking.
After Unifor members threatened to strike at CP, Ottawa said it would force the unions members back to work. Mr. Dias said CN would use the same approach, adding, “Companies like CN should not be leaning on government to interfere in collective bargaining.”