Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/11/2019 (225 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Striking Canadian National Railway workers picketed outside Winnipeg's Symington rail yard Tuesday morning, joining the first day of a national strike by more than 3,000 CN employees.
Roughly three dozen striking workers were on the line at the yard's entrance near Lagimodière Boulevard and Maginot Street as of 8 a.m., as a cold morning rain turned to sleet. The strikers said they weren't authorized by their union to give media interviews.
Another picket line is planned for the gate to CN's Winnipeg Intermodal Terminal on Plessis Road, according to Christopher Monette, Teamsters Canada's director of public affairs. The striking workers are letting CN managers and supervisors through the picket lines to operate trains, he said.
"So while the company's total capacity is greatly affected, and they're not operating anywhere near as much, officially, as they normally would be — obviously, they've got 3,000 workers on the street — there are still some trains that are moving now, because there are workers at CN who are not covered by the same (collective agreement)."
Monette said fatigue is a key issue for the striking CN workers.
"And at the bargaining table, CN wants to make it even harder for our members to take time off, and they want to make our members work even longer days," he said.
Another issue is CN's practice of having workers operate locomotives from outside the train via remote control, Monette added.
"CN asks our members to hang onto moving trains with one hand, hold the remote control with the other, and operate these trains for hours a day, through rain and freezing temperatures."
The workers' other major concern is CN's plan for a lifetime cap on prescription drug coverage for workers, said Monette.
"But that cap is so low that it's tantamount to denying some of our members coverage for medication," he said.
Wages aren't a particular concern in the negotiations, according to a Teamsters Canada press release.
Canadian National Railway is "disappointed that the (Teamsters Canada Rail Conference) has initiated strike action," wrote CN spokesperson Jonathan Abecassis in a brief emailed statement Tuesday.
"We will return to the negotiating table today, with the assistance of federal mediators. We have no further comment at this point."
Teamsters spokesperson Monette said the union wants to negotiate a settlement as soon as possible.
"We don't want this strike to go on forever, because our members obviously don't like being on strike if they don't have to be," he said.
"Holiday season's around the corner, and of course we're also very sensitive to concerns from farmers and pretty much everybody who relies on CN's network. That's why we really want to reach a negotiated settlement — but it takes two to tango, and the company, we're really hoping that they're going to change their attitude with regard to the key health and safety issues that we've identified."
Winnipeggers who support the striking workers are welcome to stop by the picket lines and show support, added Monette.
"That applies such an incredible boost in terms of morale, to see members of the public who might not have any connection with the railroad, but who nevertheless go out there out of solidarity with this working-class struggle, to support the people who are on the line right now. That's huge. And if you have some spare change, obviously, buy the guys some Timmie's and Timbits."
Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.
To those who have made donations, thank you.
To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.
The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.
While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.
After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.
If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.
We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.