CN Rail conductors James Fleming (from left), Brian Hagen, Chris Bertenshaw and Grant Norquay picket in Williams Lake. (Photo submitted)

CN Rail conductors strike carries on; federal gov’t resists pressure to end dispute

Train crew fatigue and work rest rules are some of the concerns of workers, said the union

The trains have stopped moving in Williams Lake as Canadian National Railway Co. conductors, trainpersons and yardpersons have been on strike since Tuesday, Nov. 19.

A handful of conductors based in the lakecity have been manning the picket line along Highway 20 at the entrance to the RC Cotton site.

Train crew fatigue and work rest rules are some of the concerns of workers, said the union.

The workers have been without a contract since July 23.

The Forest Products Association of Canada says a chronic shortage of truck drivers is compounding concerns about the impact of the strike which as halted freight trains across the country.

READ MORE: Federal government resists mounting pressure to end CN Rail strike

As of Sunday, the federal government was resisting calls to intervene in the strike despite the spectre of a propane shortage in Quebec and rising pressure from premiers and CEOs across the country to reconvene Parliament ahead of schedule and legislate the 3,200 Canadian National Railway Co. employees back to work.

About 85 per cent of the province’s propane comes via rail, the bulk of it from refineries in Sarnia and some from Edmonton — the country’s two propane trading hubs.

“We realize how important this is to the economy of our country, to have a railway system that functions,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau told reporters after the new government’s first cabinet meeting in Ottawa on Thursday afternoon. “We want this strike to end as soon as possible.”

READ MORE: CN Rail strike and lack of trucking alternatives stoke forest industry fears

“For us it’s an appreciation of the collective bargaining process,” said Labour Minister Filomena Tassi, noting Ottawa’s chief mediator was at the negotiating table in Montreal.

The minister — named to the labour portfolio 24 hours earlier — said she would be reaching out personally to both sides in the coming days.

The last CN Rail strike occurred in late 2009 when 1,700 engineers walked off the job for three days.

– With files from The Canadian Press


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