CP Rail strike not expected to affect Montreal’s commuter trains

The Vaudreuil-Hudson RTM train line. Billy Shields/Global News

Montreal’s commuter trains are not expected to be affected by the strike by unions representing train operators and signalling workers at Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. starting Tuesday night.

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“The service will be as usual even if there is a strike,” confirmed Elaine Arsenault, communications officer for the Réseau de transport métropolitain (RTM).

“The duration of the delays could be slightly longer in the event that signaling problems or crossing level malfunctions occur on the CP lines.”

Commuters are encouraged to check the Twitter accounts of their respective lines for updates.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) informed CP Rail they will be in a position to strike as of 10 p.m. Tuesday.

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In a statement Saturday, the unions accused the company of “refusing to negotiate seriously,” after workers rejected its latest contract offer on Friday.

“CP is offering more of the same contract language that workers just voted to reject a few hours ago,” said TCRC president Doug Finnson.

“The company clearly isn’t serious about reaching a negotiated settlement and delivering on their promise to do right by their employees.”

The IBEW said CP has “continually changed directions during negotiations,” giving no indication that a settlement was possible.

“We have given CP every reasonable opportunity to negotiate and avoid a strike, but sadly that has led us nowhere,” said Steve Martin, senior general chairman from IBEW System Council No. 11.

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The unions said they are committed to working with federal mediators to reach a settlement, and they will “remain at the bargaining table until the May 29 strike deadline and beyond.”

In a statement of its own, CP said it has “commenced its work stoppage contingency plan” and will work toward a safe wind-down of operations.

“CP will continue to meet with the TCRC and the IBEW in the hopes of reaching agreements that are in the best interests of the entire CP family, its customers, shareholders and the broader North American economy,” the railway said.

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CP Rail train crews have engaged in two strikes in the past few years.

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In 2015, they ended a brief walkout and agreed to arbitration after the Harper government warned of back-to-work legislation; three years earlier, federal back-to-work legislation was enacted to end a 10-day strike.

About 3,000 members of the TCRC voted roughly 98 per cent against the company’s most recent offer Friday. The IBEW, which represents some 360 signal and communications workers, voted about 97 per cent against the offer.

This came after the federal government forced union members to vote on the company’s offer, ending mediated talks. Union negotiators had recommended members reject the offer.

— with files from The Canadian Press.