The Canadian National Railway (CN) confirmed Friday that it is moving its traffic control centre from Montreal to Edmonton, affecting 108 jobs.
CN’s media relations officer Alexandre Boulé said in a statement that the move will happen gradually over the upcoming months and all employees concerned have been notified and offered the opportunity to relocate to Edmonton.
According to the railway company, the reason for the move is to bring all the people controlling the movement of trains into one single building. The company said their goal is to merge the three control centres in Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton into one in Edmonton.
The company’s statement added that services in French will still be available to francophone employees.
Boulé said that those who do not wish to move to Edmonton will be entitled to the benefits provided to them in their union’s collective agreement.
Rail traffic controllers are to trains what air traffic controllers are to planes, the Teamsters union that represents the workers said in December, explaining they coordinate train movements across a given territory and protect personnel working on the tracks.
In December, the union said the company had already begun transferring 20 rail traffic controller positions to Alberta’s capital, less than a year after the workers had been transferred to Montreal from Toronto.
Union president François Laporte said the Montreal-based railway is “moving families across the country like goods on a train.”
Laporte added that some of the families had just recently found schools and daycares for their children in Montreal. “You can’t play with people’s lives like that,” he said.
Union representative Lyndon Isaak said CN could lose experienced staff and increase risk for railroaders, since for many of the affected workers picking up and moving across the country may not be an option.
“CN will end up losing (the workers’ experienced) knowledge of the rail network, which could lead to dangerous situations for railroaders, track maintenance crews and the general public,” Isaak said.
CN’s headquarters have been in Montreal for over 100 years and the company employs nearly 3,000 people in the city, including the railway’s executives.
–With files from The Canadian Press