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February 20, 2015 11:30 AM, EST

Canadian National Workers Set Strike Vote

Norm Betts/Bloomberg News

Railway labor troubles are continuing in Canada.

Unifor, a labor union that represents about 4,800 workers at Canadian National Railway, said it will begin strike votes next week after five months of talks failed to produce an agreement.

Unifor’s move came less than a week after a two-day strike at Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. by the Teamsters Canada Railway Conference. That walkout was ended after the two sides agreed to binding arbitration as Parliament readied legislation to force strikers back to work.

Unifor President Jerry Dias made the strike vote announcement at a meeting of union officials from CN and CP. Unifor wants CN to accept the same tentative deal reached earlier this month with CP, where the union represents 1,800 mechanical workers. That deal is in the ratification process.

“CN is trying to get a discounted settlement, by counting on the government to cut off collective bargaining with back-to-work legislation,” Dias said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Canadian National said it offered a three-year deal, including 3% annual wage increases, that is in line with other recently reached union agreements at the Montreal-based railway.

“CN is highly profitable, even more so than CP Rail, yet somehow it is claiming it cannot meet the pattern agreement that we established at CP,” Dias said.

Canadian National’s Unifor members are mechanical, clerical and intermodal workers.

The union said it set a late March target for a walkout so that rail customers could make adjustments to their shipping arrangements.

U.S. operations of Canadian National are covered by a separate group of contracts.

The CN strike vote process will take up to three weeks, matching the time set for the ratification process at CP. 

Unifor is CN’s largest union. The labor contract expired Dec. 31, and talks began in September.