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CN union caught off guard by passenger train cancellation

Thursday, February 06, 2014   by: Bob Mihell

The president of the union representing Canadian National Railway employees said the union leadership was as surprised as everyone else by CN’s January 24 announcement they were canceling passenger service between the Sault and Hearst at the end of March.

Rex Beatty, national president of the Teamsters Rail Conference, who represent about 10,000 CN employees, including roughly 40 in the Sault, said normally when the company is proposing “material changes” that could affect union jobs, there are terms in the collective agreements that require CN to consult with union representatives.

Beatty, who lives in Sault Ste. Marie, speculated that CN did not think the situation required discussion.

That however, was not Beatty’s position.

“I think there should have been consultation,” he said Feb. 3. “The view I take of this is that these things are not done in a vacuum. The railroad and the government have obviously had discussions. It is unfortunate that the union wasn’t invited into that inner circle.” 

Beatty added that the rail company that reports billions of dollars in annual profits has an obligation as “good corporate citizens” and to its employees. “Sault Ste. Marie has provided workers for many, many years, so it is disrespectful that you don’t talk to these people,” he said.

Beatty also directed criticism toward the Federal government for its decision to end the $2.2 million annual subsidy to the regional passenger service. 

“My concern with the government’s role is that when you look at Northern Ontario, we always seem to to be on the short end of the stick because we don’t have the population they do, for example, in the Toronto area where there is more political clout,” he said. “There should be a responsibility on the government’s part to ensure there is satisfactory infrastructure for the people they govern. I think that is sorely lacking in the North, and I don’t think they (the government) understand the situation.”
Beatty, who was born in Hornepayne and went to school in Hearst, added, “I know the impact this is going to have.”

Beatty suggested also that the government’s assessment of the quality of the roads in the district was inaccurate.

“A lot of these roads are secondary roads. They are not main roads,” he said. “In winter, many of them are not open.”

He said that there were also unanswered questions about insurance as users are required to use some of those roads, “at their own risk”.

Beatty said that he believed the government had not assessed the situation properly, but there was no way for his union to verify this because they had not been invited to government discussions.

Beatty said that what he hopes will happen now is that the government would agree to reassess its decision when they understand the impact it is going to have on the region. 

“They hopefully may say we jumped the gun too quickly,” Beatty said. “I am also hoping, given my understanding of the railroad, and how profitable they are, that they also will take another look at it, and understand their role as good corporate citizens. I’m hoping those two combined will lead to cooler heads prevailing.”

Beatty said all options should be explored to find a solution acceptable to all parties.

He noted that as it stands presently there has been a lack of input from stakeholders. “It seems like we’re playing catch-up. All these things should have been addressed long before now. I’m sure it has agitated many people.”

Beatty said that the Teamsters represent between 30 to 40 CN engineers, conductors and yard workers in the Sault depending on seasonal adjustments.

Beatty said that it would be difficult to predict what impact the canceled passenger service, if the decision stands, would have on local rail jobs for a couple reasons.

He said that under the contract, employees typically change their job duties twice a year. 

He noted also that there is the possibility that local workers could have an option to relocate elsewhere. He said that CN faces chronic shortages of workers, especially in Western Canada, partly, he asserted, because of CN’s managerial style, but also because rail jobs are very demanding, often performed under adverse conditions in remote locations.

Meanwhile a looming strike by roughly 3,000 CN conductors, train and yard workers, including those locally, would appear to be averted by a last minute agreement reached Feb. 5 between Teamster and CN negotiators in Montreal.

The three-year deal still must be ratified by union members.

Employees had voted overwhelmingly January 30 to reject an earlier contract negotiated in October that the union negotiators had recommended for acceptance.

Beatty said it was his understanding that members were concerned about issues related to rest provisions in the first contract.

Although rail employees were ready to walk-off the job this Saturday at noon, the Federal government had indicated they would introduce back to work legislation  next week should that be needed.

Comments
19
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of SooToday.com. If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
Aerobow 2/6/2014 4:15:19 PM Report

Hello….Bryan Hayes they are talking about you! Hello..Is there anybody home?? Bryan where are you??

Guess Bryan is to busy towing the party line!!!
Verbatim 2/6/2014 4:25:39 PM Report

CN boasted profits in the billions, there CEO was paid a hansome 49 million in wages and stocks and now they want to cancel the passenger train because the govenment wont give them 2.2 million. This has to be a f@#king joke. The CEO salary could pay for almost another 20 years of service. When corporations priorities are this far out of whack one has to begin to questuion the logic of the people running them. Our elected leaders need to stand up and start showing some balls. Stop bowing to the multinationals and the bankers and start litening to the people who actually put you in office. I cant wait till election time.Mr Hayes better hope i dont get a chance to question him if i do I'll tear that boy a new ass
shju 2/6/2014 4:31:36 PM Report

As much as I don't like whats happening they can do whatever they want. Its thier money. They don't run a business to break even or loose money.
right wing 2/6/2014 4:38:33 PM Report

I guess I woke up in Russia this morning.
Suddenly a privately owned and operated corporation that makes a great profit is not allowed to pay their CEO whatever they as a group damn well decide to.
This has got to be the most repetitive lame argument ever.
CN is not a government run or owned business...
B Boy 2/6/2014 4:54:43 PM Report

It's shocking how frequently our elected officials are not free to vote independently and must vote with the party line. This isn't even exclusive to the conservatives.

Makes me question why we are given the impression that our voting matters when the party will do whatever they want anyway regardless if it's provincial or federal.
HowAbooutSomeLogic 2/6/2014 5:02:23 PM Report

lol Russia is far more of a capitalist society these days than Canada, the US or the EU...but anyway...

I think the issue is not that the company is able to pay their CEO whatever they want but how you can justify paying him thousands of times the average annual salary. Is he the reincarnation of Einstein or DaVinci or such? Wouldn't someone just as capable do the job for a lot less and isn't it all about making as much money as possible for shareholders?

What's the argument for having that kind of disparity in pay among the workers in any economy? It's legal so it's ok?
HowAbooutSomeLogic 2/6/2014 5:03:54 PM Report

Additionally, they're not losing money or even just breaking even they're just not satisfied with what they are making and are gaming you for more tax dollars.
thera 2/6/2014 5:20:41 PM Report

Sure they are a private corporation, but the rails and land they run their train on are crown land. Let them cancel whatever they want, but then they should have to build their own set of rail lines on land they will also have to purchase. Railroads built this country and should not be held hostage by greedy private corporations.
right wing 2/6/2014 5:26:38 PM Report

You are what you are worth.
If a CEO can get that kind of money then good for him, again nobody's business except the company that is paying him/her.
Never forget, one of the first heads to roll when a company does poorly is the CEO.
right wing 2/6/2014 5:32:32 PM Report

The average CEO in Canada earns just over 7 million a year.
I do not care what a CEO makes, I care more that the corporation they are overseeing is making a profit!!!
This ensures that the thousands upon thousands of people that these companies employ will keep their jobs, benefits, pensions etc., in short it ensures the health of our economy.
I'm In 2/6/2014 5:43:56 PM Report

Nothing wrong with a CEO making whatever, Its the governments fault that was elected by the poor SOB's who cater to big corporations and get all kinds of tax breaks to operate in Canada, we as the electorate need to put a stop to this by voting for the party who will take care of the poor/middle working class. These guys will be around in May 2015 don't re-elect them
Verbatim 2/6/2014 5:46:20 PM Report

@rightwing

my apoligies if i have upset your way of thinking...you are right corporations should be allowed to to pay their CEO what they feel is necessary..but im sorry paying someone 49 million for one years work can not be justified in any sense.lets try to remember that its the every day working person that makes the company profitable...NOT THE CEO and though they say they are doing what is in the best interests of the company and its employees what they are really saying is whats in the best interest of the share holder. It is becoming more apparent that those people who run these companies seem to beleive that if it wasnt for them they would not make money. Bottom line is they need people like us to support them, without the consumer they would be nothing. It is truely unfortunate that more people dont start to do what they have been doing in the european countries, protest and show who really is incharge. These corporations will continue to roll along and do whatever they want until someone finally takes a stand
la_kid555 2/6/2014 6:05:34 PM Report

Right wing makes salient points, with the exception of the last one in my opinion - a company that is making a profit, regardless of its size, does not ensure that the thousands of people that they employ will retain their jobs/benefits/etc and therefore maintain a healthy economy.
There are MANY corporate examples of companies reporting extremely large profits while concurrently laying off employees to maintain the health of their bottom line, ensuring that the shareholders continue to invest in their shares and turn further profit.
As CEO's are routinely paid with stock options above a monetary fee, this manner of doing business will proliferate, and will definitely not necessarily ensure that rank-and-file workers keep their jobs. Similar to this particular scenario, a private corporation does not have to be responsible to spend portions of their profits to appease a moral ideal.
zzeke 2/6/2014 6:06:18 PM Report

If CN can pay 49 mil to the top dog then they don`t need the 2.2 mil that they got from us the Taxpayer
diggie 2/6/2014 6:45:26 PM Report

YOU said it-
"...I do not care what a CEO makes, I care more that the corporation they are overseeing is making a profit!!!
This ensures that the thousands upon thousands of people that these companies employ will keep their jobs, benefits, pensions etc., in short it ensures the health of our economy."
So CN making billions and the fact that the railroad has always been subsidized by the Feds since its inception, you are for the SSM-Hearst line staying open, then, right????? What side are you on? I don't get what you are saying, please excuse me - I know you will "WING" me for my ignorance, or .... don't get me started. !!!!
Wisenheimer 2/6/2014 6:57:35 PM Report

Are you sure you boneheads aren't referring to Hunter Harrison of CP ??
Claude Mongeau, CEO of CN, head office Montreal, made $8.2 million in 2013.
I bought CN at $32.00, currently trading at $60.06 today.

Go Claude go !!
Verbatim 2/6/2014 7:59:09 PM Report

@wisen

I do stand corrected it was the ceo of CP not CN that maade the huge pay..my apoligies to all
dadal 2/7/2014 5:23:25 AM Report

I have some mild amusement to this story. Many of the same workers that may be out of a job soon are the ones that have been griping over dealing with passenger service on the Hearst line. As a local boy, I find it hard to believe Beatty hasn't heard their complaints over the years. So now the work they have complained over is gone and possibly thier jobs as they MAY be allowed to relocate. HAHAHAHAHA. Don't wish for what could be worse than you have. BTW....as the same people are the ones that work for the Agawa Canyon line, if CN MAY be relocating them, when will the announcement come the Canyon train will be perm cancelled????? Or did anyone think of that.


Also Right Wing, I too am all for profit and also don't care what a CEO makes. And yes most of his bonus is stock options, etc. But as others have stated, job security is NOT guaranteed in a company making a profit. As long as the profit level is met or exceeded, MOST jobs are safe. However senior workers, union or not, which cost the company more are always a target. WHy keep a 20 years employee when you can hire new at less wages and benefits?
sinikka 2/7/2014 8:30:59 AM Report

Its funny that the same people who blame the government for giving money to rich corporations are asking the government to do so in this situation. Two faced if you ask me.
Comments
19
Note: Comments that appear on the site are not the opinion of SooToday.com. If you see an abusive post, please click the link beside the post to report it.
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