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Via Rail braces for service disruption as strike looms

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Via Rail says if its customer service and other employees go on strike this week, management will continue to offer basic railway services.

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Via Rail says if its customer service and other employees go on strike this week, management will continue to offer basic railway services.

The union representing customer service staff at Via Rail is preparing to leave the station, meaning train service in Manitoba will be slowed.

Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), which represents approximately 2,200 rail employees in Canada, has set a strike deadline for Friday, 12:01 a.m. after talks with Via broke down Wednesday evening. The rail company had offered wage increases of two per cent a year over three years in its latest package, but with high pension contributions from employees.

With a strike looming, Via Rail has already braced for service disruption across the country, including stops in Manitoba.

If the strike does go into effect, the rail provider plans to close stations in The Pas and Thompson. On top of that, trains travelling between Winnipeg and Churchill will only offer economy class service.

According to the Via Rail website, sleeper car accommodations and dining car service will not be available, and limited food and beverage offerings will be available at the take-out counter.

Baggage service will also be disrupted, with each passenger only allowed to check two suitcases, each not exceeding 50 pounds each. Via Rail says no other articles will be permitted.

The Winnipeg to Churchill train departs the Main Street station on Tuesdays; the train back to the Manitoba capital leaves Churchill on Thursdays.

Via Rail is offering refunds and exchanges on tickets that fall on or after the Friday deadline. Visit viarail.ca for more information on tickets and departure times.

CAW union workers are employed by Via Rail in stations, telephone sales offices, maintenance centres, and on-board service. Locomotive engineers, represented by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference union (TCRC), remain under contract and are not part of the strike action.

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