Sunday, 8 December 2019
featured Labour

CN workers on strike for more safety and better working conditions

Striking CN workers on the Bedford Highway. Photo Robert Devet

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – As of Tuesday, 3,200 CN conductors, trainpersons and yard workers, members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, have been on strike across Canada, and freight trains aren’t moving. 

Predictably, we hear and read a lot about the impact of the strike on the GDP, on the propane supplies, on the farmers, and so on. Premiers and CEOs are calling on the feds to legislate the workers back to work. Some, like the Mining Association of Canada CEO, want to take the right to strike away from CN workers altogether.  

Meanwhile, the demands of the workers, mostly around workplace health and safety, are just and reasonable. Wages are not a point of contention. 

The CN workers want to end some specific dangerous practices, and are opposed to CN’s efforts to make workers work longer hours and reduce breaks, arguing that fatigue is already too much of a risk.

CN also wants to impose a lifetime cap on prescription drug coverage. Not good if a worker or a family member finds themselves stricken with some kind of cancer or other disease that requires expensive drugs. 

These issues are too serious to be dealt with in arbitration after back to work legislation has been imposed. 

There is a much better option, and it’s called collective bargaining. It’s not as if there is no money. 

CN earned a net income of $1.13 billion in the quarter ended Sept. 30, an 18 per cent year-over-year increase, and the highest quarterly revenues of its 99-year year history.

People never go on strike for trivial reasons, because going on strike is no fun at all. You typically lose money while on strike, you might not win, the strike may take a very long time, the list goes on. That’s why I always have a lot of time for striking workers.

There are pickets on the Bedford Highway,  Alderney Drive and Africville Road. Honk your horn when you see them, or better yet, join them on the picket line when you have a bit of time. 

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