The Teamsters union says Canadian National Railway Co. has begun to transfer workers as part of an apparent move to relocate its rail traffic control centre to Edmonton from Montreal.
Teamsters Canada says more than 100 positions would be affected at the centre, which handles the majority of rail traffic in Eastern Canada.
Rail traffic controllers are to trains what air traffic controllers are to planes, the union said, explaining they coordinate train movements across a given territory and protect personnel working on the tracks.
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The union said CN has already begun to transfer 20 rail traffic controller positions to Alberta’s capital, less than a year after the workers had been transferred to Montreal from Toronto.
Teamsters president Francois Laporte says the Montreal-based railway is “moving families across the country like goods on a train.”
“Some of these families had just found schools and daycares for their children in Montreal. You can’t play with people’s lives like that,” Laporte said.
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Union representative Lyndon Isaak says CN could lose experienced staff and increase risk for railroaders, since leaving their communities may not be an option for many of the affected workers.
“CN will end up losing experienced staff and their knowledge of the rail network, which could lead to dangerous situations for railroaders, track maintenance crews and the general public,” Isaak said.
CN has three rail traffic control centres, in Montreal, Edmonton and the one in Toronto which Teamsters said the company is in the process of closing.
The rail traffic control centres in Edmonton and Montreal control the majority on rail traffic in western and eastern Canada respectively, the union said.
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CN did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The union’s concerns come as talks to ratify a tentative deal with the company continue following an eight-day strike by 3,200 workers that brought the railway to a near halt.
— With files from Karen Bartko, Global News