Contract deadline looming for CNR, union

Maintenance and clerical workers at Canadian National Railway could go out on strike at midnight Thursday if last-minute bargaining fails to produce a deal.

About 5,000 workers had set midnight Wednesday as a strike deadline, but they extended that by 24 hours as the company and the employees agreed to keep talking.

The clerical and shop workers, both represented by the Canadian Auto Workers, have been without a contract since Dec. 31. Last week, the union members voted 90 per cent in favour of giving its negotiators a strike mandate and the set the original Wednesday deadline.

The company has said it has contingency plans to keep operating if the talks fail to produce a settlement, but added that it is optimistic that a deal can be reached.

The maintenance employees include electricians, pipefitters, sheet-metal workers and heavy-duty mechanics.

CN stock closed up 53 cents at $80.40.