About 1,700 locomotive engineers with the Canadian National Railway
went on strike early Saturday morning. The walkout, which may create
difficulties for manufacturers and resource companies, followed a
decision by Canadian National to impose a new contract on its workers.
Although the strike does not involve engineers for Canadian
National’s operations in the United States, it may nevertheless cause
problems in both countries. Some American imports from Asia and Europe
land at Canadian ports and then are moved to the United States on
Canadian National trains.
The railroad, based in Montreal, said in a statement that it would
try to maintain service by using managers to operate trains. Given the
scale of the walkout, however, it was not clear whether that would be
Automobile manufacturers in Ontario are particularly dependent on
Canadian National both for parts shipments and for delivering cars,
most of which are destined for the United States. In Western Canada,
the strike will make it difficult, if not impossible, for many farmers
to ship grain to ports in British Columbia.
After 14 months of labor negotiations came to an impasse, Canadian
National imposed a new contract last Monday. According to the Teamsters
Canada Rail Conference, the railroad wants to increase its members’
wages by 1.5 percent in the contract’s first year. But it would also
impose a 500-mile increase in the distance engineers are required to
cover each month.
The union said in a statement that the increased distance would sometimes make engineers work seven-day weeks without overtime.
Unionized engineers will continue to operate commuter trains in the
Montreal area. Via Rail Canada, the national passenger carrier,
operates many of its trains on Canadian National tracks, but it employs
its own engineers.
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