Members of local labour unions and the Sault Ste. Marie and District Labour Council joined CN workers on Carmen’s Way Monday afternoon in the midst of ongoing strike action.
The Teamsters Canadian Rail Conference, representing some 3,200 CN conductors, trainpersons and yardworkers, began strike action against CN Nov. 19.
The striking workers, who have without a contract since July 23, walked off the job last week over concerns about long hours, fatigue and dangerous working conditions.
USW Local 9548 president Cody Alexander - who’s also the second vice-president for the Sault Ste. Marie and District Labour Council - was among the handful of labour union members standing in solidarity with CN workers.
“Despite the fact that the guys aren’t collecting a paycheque while this is going on and stuff, their cause is genuine, there’s a lot of virtue behind it,” Alexander told SooToday. “They want better hours of work for better safety for all of us. I mean, the train cars, sometimes they take five hours to stop, and you want to make sure the conductor of that train car is alert and awake, and that they’re feeling competent to do their job.”
The strike - now in its seventh day - has resulted in layoffs in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, with more job layoffs possible in other parts of Canada.
“We’re going to see a lot of fear-mongering from corporations about the effects - you’ve already seen it with Quebec and the propane, and I’m sure we’ll hear locally about rail shipments from ASI [Algoma Steel Inc.] and Tenaris, and a lot of their products through rail,” said Alexander. “But the important thing is that labour sticks together, and that we’re all out here supporting one another.”
On Monday, federal agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau delivered remarks in Saskatchewan indicating the federal government is pushing both sides to come to an agreement.
- with files from The Canadian Press