Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

November 30, 2009 22:01 ET

Federal Government Introduces Back-to-Work Legislation

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 30, 2009) - Today, the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Labour, tabled a Bill in the House of Commons entitled "An Act to provide for the resumption and continuation of railway operations".

This legislation will bring to an end the current strike affecting the Canadian National Railways (CN) and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC). The Government reluctantly exercised this option to avoid disruption to such a vital component of Canada's economy, at a time when our economy is still recovering.

"This legislation will bring an end to the strike and establish a neutral arbitration process to finalize the terms of a new collective agreement," said Minister Ambrose. "I will not allow this strike to jeopardize the progress we are making towards economic recovery," added Minister Ambrose.

"We will do whatever it takes to protect the Canadian economy. We have taken immediate action to ensure that Canadian jobs and businesses are protected," concluded Minister Ambrose.

Negotiations had been ongoing for over a year before the strike started early Saturday.

The Minister reiterated her call to all parties in Parliament to support quick passage of this legislation.


The CN strike is an exceptional situation that requires the federal government to intervene in the usually independent labour relations system. Back-to-work legislation has been brought forward because the strike represents a threat to the national economy.

Economic impacts:

CN operates a large commercial network, transporting inventory from domestic producers and international importers to consumers in Canada, the ports, and our neighbour to the south.

From agricultural products in the West and automotive products in Ontario, to forestry products in Quebec and petroleum, chemicals and metals in the East, many industries in Canada rely on CN Rail's 20,000 kilometres of track.

According to Transport Canada's Transportation in Canada 2008: An Overview, in 2007, railways in Canada transported 66 766.3 thousand tonnes in six essential sectors, valued at more than $94 974.4 million.

Volume (Thousands of tonnes) Value (Millions of dollars)
Automotive 2 858.10 $44 807.00
Chemicals 13 085.70 $16 035.60
Grain and fertilizers 16 571.40 $3 171.50
Metals 5 332.90 $13 382.20
Petroleum products 4 922.70 $4 095.30
Pulp and paper 23 995.50 $13 482.80
Total 66 766.30 $94 974.40
Figures from Transportation in Canada 2008: An Overview: Addendum

Timelines of events:

- In the past, the Government of Canada has introduced back-to-work legislation in the railways industry in 1974, 1986, 1995 and 2007.

- On December 31, 2008, collective agreements covering a unit of 1,750 locomotive engineers expired.

- The Minister of Labour has actively assisted the parties in trying to resolve their differences. Federal mediators have been working with the employer and union since June 2009 to find an approach that would allow for a successful conclusion to negotiations.

- On November 24, 2009, CN gave the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) notice of its plan to increase wage rates and apply a change to the mileage caps for employees represented in Canada by TCRC. Subsequently, the union gave strike notice to the employer effective at 00:01 hours, November 28, 2009.

- As of the morning of Saturday, November 28, 2009, the union started strike action.

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