We’ve heard a lot about the issues at the airport lately, and we know that high gas prices have made car travel less than ideal right now too. So we’ve got the planes, we’ve got the automobiles, but what about the trains? Well, there are some problems there too. Before the weekend is out, hundreds of VIA Rail employees might be on strike after reaching an impasse on a new contract with management.
“VIA Rail workers are frustrated that the employer continues to push concessions and not work towards a fair and equitable collective agreement for our members,” said Scott Doherty, executive assistant to Unifor’s national president and lead negotiator in a statement. “Unifor members at VIA are highly skilled and contributed to the success of the company. We will do whatever it takes to get members the collective agreement that they deserve.”
Without a new collective agreement, some 2,000 maintenance workers, on-board service personnel, chefs, sales agents and customer service staff will be on the picket line at 12:01 am on Monday. The sticking point seems to be the workers’ desire to remove a supplemental agreement that the union says will result in the loss of job security for workers. They also have issues with language in the new agreement that would weaken the language in a section about layoffs.
Earlier this week, membership of two Unifor locals representing VIA Rail employees voted 99.3 per cent in favour of strike action.
As for VIA Rail itself, they say they’re committed to continuing negotiations with Unifor, and that they will continue to negotiate in good faith up until the deadline. But if they should fail to reach an agreement by Sunday night, VIA Rail customers will probably have to look at making alternative plans.
“Unfortunately, if no agreement is reached, VIA Rail will be forced to suspend all services for the duration of the strike and until normal operations can safely resume,” aid Martin R Landry, president and CEO of VIA in a statement. “We recognize that this would be a major disruption for our passengers and for communities across the country. This potential work disruption comes at a time when we have resumed nearly all of our services.
“We deeply regret that it will negatively impact our efforts to support the recovery of Canada’s tourism industry and cut off the essential role we play in transporting Canadians, and connecting many remote communities including indigenous communities,” he added.
If a strike does happen, passengers will be able to exchange their train tickets at no cost or get a full refund. To stay up-to-date about potential service disruptions, visit VIA Rail’s website, or call 1-888-VIA-RAIL (842-7245) or 1-800 268-9503 (TTY for the hearing impaired).