It wasn’t exactly the eleventh hour, but a new deal was reached overnight between VIA Rail and Unifor Council 4000 and Local 100, who represent over 2,000 workers with the passenger rail service. This draws to a close days of uncertainty as VIA management, workers and passengers counted down to a strike deadline Sunday at midnight, and then counted down three other deadlines before a deal was finally reached.
“From the beginning our bargaining committees felt the weight of their responsibility – to fight for the best deal for their members,” said Lana Payne, Unifor national secretary-treasurer in a statement. “They have done incredible work. They were tough and principled and they have proven that when we fight we can win for working people.”
Job security and work conditions were the primary causes for concern with the new contract, but the lead negotiators says that it was the resolve of his members, who voted over 99 per cent in favour of taking strike action, that pushed management into making concessions and reaching a new deal.
“Fighting back against the concessions that VIA proposed wasn’t easy, but the resolve, commitment and solidarity of our VIA Rail members, helped the bargaining committees to push forward and achieve this tentative agreement,” said Scott Doherty. “I want to thank our members and the travelling public for their patience and support, while we continued to negotiate past the strike deadline to achieve this agreement. Without them this deal would not have been possible.”
The new deal, which still has to be ratified by the members, is retroactive to January 1, 2022 and will be effective through December 31, 2024. The full details of the new agreement will be released once it’s been ratified.
“VIA Rail is pleased to have negotiated these agreements and recognizes the hard work of both parties during this process,” said Martin R Landry, president and CEO of VIA. “We sympathize with the passengers and communities whose plans have been impacted in the past couple of days due to the uncertainty caused by this potential strike.”
VIA and Unifor blew through three deadline extensions from the original deadline of midnight on Sunday. That evening, both sides announced that the deadline had been extended to 4 pm on Monday afternoon. It was extended to 8 pm as the Monday deadline neared, and then it was extended again to midnight. VIA finally tweeted just before 2 am on Tuesday that a deal was reached.
“As we look forward to ratification, these tentative agreements allow our teams to get back to doing what we do best: serving Canadians throughout the country,” Landry added.
Despite the agreement, VIA Rail passengers will still be able to make changes to their travel plans without service fees for any departures prior to July 31.