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CN gets notice IBEW workers could go on strike

Canadian railway ‘ready to implement an operational contingency plan’ if walkout occurs Saturday

CN and IBEW are undergoing negotations. (Photo: Shutterstock/Doug McLean)

Canadian railway CN has received a notice from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) that its members could go on strike this weekend.

The action would affect approximately 750 employees in Canada, CN (NYSE: CNI) said in a release late Wednesday. 

IBEW provided it with a 72-hour notice of its plans to strike at 11 a.m. EDT on Saturday.

CN said it has been negotiating with the union “in good faith and will continue to do so,” adding that the railway is offering to resolve remaining differences through binding arbitration. The unresolved issues are predominantly related to wages and benefits.

The railway also said it is prepared to keep operations running should a strike occur.

“CN remains optimistic that an agreement can be reached without a labor disruption. However, should the union move forward with a strike, CN has prepared and is ready to implement an operational contingency plan. This plan would ensure a normal level of continued safe operations as long as required,” CN said.

IBEW told FreightWaves it is willing to continue talks.

“Our members are still willing to bargain and to negotiate right now,” IBEW International Vice President Russ Shewchuk said. Compensation and wages are among the issues being debated, and the first time the union had heard the possibility of arbitration was through the media, he said. Both sides are anticipated to continue talks through the week. 

The potential strike is occurring as CN’s U.S. operations are involved in hashing out a new labor agreement with the unions. The National Mediation Board this week offered arbitration to the freight railroads and the unions, ending weeks of negotiations. If arbitration isn’t accepted, the parties will enter a 30-day cooling off period, after which President Joe Biden will appoint a board to look into the matter and provide recommendations via a report. An agreement could be reached based on that report or Congress may intervene and work with both sides.

In late 2019, Teamsters Canada members went on a strike at CN that lasted over a week. About 3,200 workers were affected. 

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.