Government of Canada

Government of Canada
Office of the Minister of Labour

Office of the Minister of Labour

April 20, 2007 16:58 ET

Minister Blackburn to Name an Arbitrator for the CN/UTU Dispute On Monday

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - April 20, 2007) - The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, today confirmed that he is ready to act swiftly to name an arbitrator to achieve a collective agreement between United Transportation Union (UTU) members and Canadian National (CN) Railways.

Speaking in Ottawa, Minister Blackburn committed to announcing the name of an arbitrator on Monday, to start the 90-day process of reviewing the best final offers from both parties. The arbitrator will then select one of the offers, which will become the collective agreement. The legislation, however, does not prevent the two parties from returning to the negotiating table before an arbitrator is required to select an offer.

"Passage of Bill C-46 is not the last step in resolving this dispute," said Minister Blackburn. "The fast appointment of an arbitrator is the first step in the process of finding a mutually beneficial long-term solution for both the employees and the employer."

The final offer selection provision in Bill C-46 was chosen to encourage both parties to submit reasonable offers to the arbitrator. Minister Blackburn emphasized that the legislation does not pick sides, but takes much needed action to reach a collective agreement and restore stability and credibility to Canada's rail system. The Minister confirmed that in the context of a divided union and a rejected agreement, legislation was the only option to achieve a collective agreement at this time.

In a gesture of openness, the Minister contacted representatives from both sides to give them an opportunity to agree on the selection of an arbitrator.

Minister Blackburn expressed his disappointment that the parties have been unable to agree on an arbitrator. "In the absence of an agreement between the parties on who should be appointed, I will name an arbitrator on Monday, as it is my responsibility."

Minister Blackburn applauded the employees who returned to work during the ratification process of the initial tentative agreement to keep freight moving across the country and to export markets, as well as to keep GoTrain and Montreal urban commuter trains running. The flexibility to allow this situation is currently included in Canada's Labour Code and repudiates the need for radical legislative changes: for example, Mario Silva's Private Member's Bill C-415.

This news release is available in alternative formats upon request.

Contact Information

  • (Media only)
    Office of Minister Blackburn
    Emma Welford
    Human Resources and Social Development Canada
    Media Relations