Montreal

CN union gives Tuesday strike notice amid weekend contract talks

Canadian National (CN) conductors, train persons and yard persons have given strike notice ahead of a Tuesday deadline, meaning they could walk off the job just after midnight that day.

Announcement comes the day after CN confirms it's cutting jobs

CN Rail and the union have been in talks for over six months. Now the union has given strike notice for next week. (The Canadian Press)

Canadian National (CN) conductors, train persons and yard persons have given strike notice ahead of a Tuesday deadline.

The union, which represents 3,200 workers, provided the 72-hour notice Saturday as contract negotiations continue this weekend.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference warned in October it was prepared to launch job action after over six months of unsuccessful talks.

A strike could begin at 12:01 a.m. ET Tuesday now that the notice has been given.

The workers, mostly in major urban centres across Canada, have been without a contract since July 23.

Union spokesperson Christopher Monette said the two sides hit a wall on safety issues and the union felt it had to take a stand.

The strike, he explained, would only affect freight train operations — he doesn't expect passenger trains will be interrupted.

Employees of Via and other public transit organizations that use CN lines will be able to continue their work, and there will be no concerns about them crossing picket lines.

"It is our goal as a union not to do anything that would impact commuters. We want their support, not their anger," he said.

Rob Reilly, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of CN, said in a statement the company will continue to negotiate "in good faith" over the coming days.

"If a settlement cannot be reached this weekend, we will once again encourage the union leadership to accept binding arbitration as an alternative to disrupting the Canadian economy."

The strike notice comes a day after Montreal-based CN confirmed job cuts, saying it was "adjusting its resources to demand." CN wouldn't say how many people will be affected.

Monette said the strike has nothing to do with those layoffs — the strike vote, he pointed out, happened in September.

with files from CBC's Shawn Lyons