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CN Rail, union reach tentative agreement after week-long strike

CN Rail and union reach tentative agreement after week-long strike
WATCH: CN Rail and union reach tentative agreement after week-long strike

CN Rail and the union representing workers have reached a tentative agreement after a week-long strike.

“Normal operations at CN will resume tomorrow at 6 a.m. local time across Canada,” according to a statement from Teamsters Canada Rail Conference.

About 3,200 CN workers have been without a contract since July 23. They walked off the job on Nov. 19 over concerns about long hours, fatigue and “dangerous working conditions.”

READ MORE: Here are the demands of CN Rail workers

The tentative agreement must now be ratified by Teamsters members via a vote. The union says meetings will be held for members across the country to outline the terms of the new agreement before a vote is held.

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Details of the tentative agreement have not been released.

CN Rail said it will allow its workers to return to work at 2 p.m. Tuesday, but yard assignments won’t begin until 6 a.m. local time Wednesday.

Outside the CN Rail headquarters in Montreal, workers on the picket line packed up their signs and belongings shortly after news of the deal broke.

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The union and the company had been in negotiations for seven months and working with federal mediators for the past five. Talks were ongoing between both sides during the work stoppage.

CN Rail and workers’ union reach tentative deal after week-long strike
CN Rail and workers’ union reach tentative deal after week-long strike

When trains across the country came to a halt last week, so did a number of Canada’s industries. The strike stalled commodities and put farmers on edge, as they rely on train-delivered propane to dry crops and heat barns and greenhouses. Quebec was first to sound the alarm about a possible propane “emergency” threatening supply for hospitals and nursing homes as well as farms.

About 85 per cent of the Quebec’s propane is shipped by rail. Most of the product comes from refineries in Sarnia and some from Edmonton.

READ MORE: CN Rail strike put Quebec and Ontario on propane notice

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Industry leaders from farming to mining and forestry called on the Trudeau government to resolve the strike by reconvening Parliament early in order to pass back-to-work legislation, but the government chose to keep both sides at the bargaining table.

The union thanked the Liberals for respecting workers’ right to strike.

“Previous governments routinely violated workers’ right to strike when it came to the rail industry,” Teamsters Canada president François Laporte said in the statement. “This government remained calm and focused on helping parties reach an agreement, and it worked.”

Peterborough farmers feel the pinch of CN Rail strike
Peterborough farmers feel the pinch of CN Rail strike

The government nodded to the agreement as “further evidence” that negotiating without interference “gets the best results for Canadians and the economy.”

“We congratulate and thank both CN and the Teamsters for staying at the table and coming to an agreement for the benefit of all Canadians,” Minister of Labour Filomena Tassi and Minister of Transport Marc Garneau said in a joint statement.

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CN Rail says the results of the ratification vote will be available within eight weeks. In a statement, the company’s president and chief executive officer, JJ Ruest, acknowledged employees who “kept the railroad moving safely at a reduced capacity” during the work stoppage.