Local members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, which represents approximately 3,000 engineers, conductors, yard workers and other train employees across the country, have entered a lockout due to a labour dispute at Canadian Pacific Railway (CP).
Sunday (March 20) was day two of the railroaders’ strike in Revelstoke. Roughly 40 people of all ages were on the picket line on Victoria Road as they were met with honking horns of support from residents driving by.
John Kiengersky, local chairperson for TCRC, said that members of the local union want to be treated with dignity and respect by the company.
The local division includes Revelstoke and Golden and has nearly 300 members, all of whom who are showing support and unity towards their common goal across the board according to Kiengersky.
Kiengersky said that the majority of their members are junior employees who need to understand what they deserve when it comes to their position with the company.
“Solidarity is showing itself on a major level,” said Kiengersky.
The outstanding issues in the dispute include wages, benefits and pensions.
According to Kiengersky, railroaders are looking to be compensated fairly according to the rise of inflation, and stated that their pension plan as it is right now does not reflect the rising costs of every-day items and property in communities across the country.
“You sacrifice your life for 35 years so that when you’re done you have financial stability,” said Kiengersky.
The railroaders are also seeking an improvement in their work-life balance, and that railroaders are spending an increasing amount of time away from their families.
Representatives from the local TCRC division called the work environment in the company toxic, noting the company’s disciplinary actions over minor grievances.
It’s a dispute that hits home for people in Revelstoke, as many members of the community are either currently working as a railroader or are retired individuals who have completed long careers with CP.
“Everybody knows a railroader,” said Cam Murtagh of TCRC.
Kiengersky said that the TCRC in Revelstoke expects other local unions to join them on the picket line in support of their cause, and that the crowd will get bigger by the day.
While on strike, railroaders in Revelstoke are experiencing a loss of wages as they don’t have access to strike pay.
CP Rail said it tabled an offer on March 15 to address outstanding issues, including the union’s key issues through final and binding arbitration. The next day, they issued a 72-hour notice to the TCRC of its plan to lock out employees as of March 20 if the the two parties were unable to come to a negotiated settlement or agree to binding arbitration.
CP Rail and the TCRC both blamed each other for causing the work stoppage, though both also said they were still talking with federal mediators.
Negotiations between the TCRC and CP are ongoing, and Kiengersky said that the two parities are far from reaching an agreement.
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