Teamsters Canada Rail Conference ratifies collective agreement

A photograph of a train next to a building.

Canadian National (NYSE: CNI) and members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) have voted to ratify a new three-year collective contract agreement, the groups said.

“We are pleased to have completed these agreements,” said Canadian National (CN) CEO JJ Ruest in a release late Friday. CN didn’t include any details about the collective agreement.

In the Teamsters vote on the agreement, 91.3% voted in favor. The group represents about 3,200 workers who serve as conductors, yard workers and trainpersons for CN. Members conducted an eight-day strike last November after initial negotiations failed. 

The new collective agreement, which lasts through July 22, 2022, addresses safety issues, with a particular focus on crew fatigue and hours of work, according to the Teamsters. But the Canadian government will need to address fatigue in the rail industry in future regulations, said TCRC President Lyndon Isaak.

“We’ve succeeded in getting CN to adjust some of its practices in the interests of safety. But … the issue of fatigue is still far from resolved,” Isaak said.

One of the provisions in the agreement calls for CN to waive what the TCRC called the “work-now-grieve-later” policy. Instead of calling employees to work beyond a 10-hour limit, employees can now book resting periods, TCRC said.

If CN asks employees, including train staff, yard workers and conductors, to work into their rest periods, those employees must receive extra compensation. 

The agreement also defines shift times, calls for an industry-standard 8% wage increase over the course of the three-year agreement, and makes some changes to employees’ health and welfare plans. 

The Teamsters said it was unable to eliminate the lifetime cap on health and welfare payouts. This issue could arise again in the next round of bargaining if the federal government doesn’t implement a universal pharmacare program, the Teamsters said.  

The Teamsters thanked Labour Minister Filomena Tassi, Transport Minister Marc Gareau and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service for their involvement.

“Ottawa used to routinely violate workers’ right to strike in the rail sector. But this government remained calm and focused on helping parties reach an agreement, and it worked,” said Teamsters Canada President François Laporte.