IBEW, CN Forge a New 3-Year Agreement

December 13, 2022

After a lengthy negotiation process, which included a two-week midsummer strike followed three months later with binding arbitration, IBEW members who work for the Canadian National Railway reached an arbitrated bargaining agreement with the company Oct. 11.

“Strikes are obviously a last resort, but over the summer it became clear that our members needed to send Canadian National a strong and unmistakable message about our worth to the company,” said First District International Vice President Russ Shewchuk. “Neither party got everything they wanted through binding arbitration, but we’re still grateful that the process moved as it should and that our members are now receiving greater recognition and compensation for their hard work.”

At Canadian National, the IBEW represents approximately 750 signals and communications workers, each playing a crucial role in maintaining the company’s expansive 32,000-km network that stretches from British Columbia to Nova Scotia. An extension into the central U.S. runs between the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico.

In January, Canadian National reported full-year 2021 revenue of almost $14.5 billion, about a 5% increase over the previous year. With the rate of inflation in Canada rising, said First District International Representative Steven Martin, the IBEW sought in an updated contract agreement an increase in wages, as well as improved working conditions and better benefits. The company refused.

“It wasn’t a good situation for the most part,” Martin said.

Compounding matters was Canadian National’s continued reliance on a strategy it had pioneered called “precision scheduled railroading,” a tactic that has since been adopted by most of the large freight railroad companies in North America. It calls for consolidating rail services, slashing headcount, and deferring facility and equipment repairs.

“With PSR, all of these railroads are pursuing profit at any cost, even when that effort seriously risks the safety of workers and the public at large and hurts customer service and jobs,” said Railroad Department Director Al Russo.

After seeking and receiving authorization from International President Lonnie R. Stephenson, the IBEW on June 15 gave Canadian National a 72-hour strike notice. Workers officially walked off the job on the morning of June 18, and early on, Martin said, the IBEW successfully resisted attempts by Canadian National to end the strike.

By July 4, the IBEW’s negotiators decided that the strike had gone on long enough and approved Canadian National’s request to move to binding arbitration.

“It was a collective decision by the negotiating committee that, considering all the facts and the current state of where we’re at in the strike, it was the most reasonable thing to do,” Martin told Reuters.

On Oct. 11, the parties announced that arbitration had ended at last and that they had reached a three-year collective bargaining agreement. Among other things, the agreement, which is retroactive to Jan. 1, includes annual 3% wage increases through 2024.

Martin noted that Canadian National’s signals and communications workers were at one time part of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen before they and others broke away in the 1980s and formed the Canadian Signal and Communications Union. Nearly 10 years later, that union agreed to merge with the IBEW. Now, 19 locals represent workers on Canada’s railroads — more than half at Canadian National — within the IBEW’s Railroad System Council 11.

The IBEW’s struggles with Canadian National were taking place while it and 11 other railroad-related unions in the U.S. were fighting to negotiate and ratify their own updated bargaining agreement with that country’s largest freight railroads, with the threat of a strike looming there as well. At press time, seven of those unions, including the IBEW, had ratified an agreement that was brokered at practically the last minute by members of President Joe Biden’s administration during an all-night negotiation session.


Related Articles

Latest Articles

Changing Scene

  • ECAO Welcomes 41st President, Mr. Chris Cimek

    ECAO Welcomes 41st President, Mr. Chris Cimek

    June 2, 2023 ECAO Board of Directors are pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Chris Cimek as President of the Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario (ECAO), effective June 02, 2023. Chris Cimek, Vice-President of E.S. Fox Ltd. has been actively involved in the electrical industry for over 34 years. Today, E.S Fox Limited is… Read More…

  • Leviton Canada Names Jason Denstedt as Sales Director, Central Canada (Ontario)

    Leviton Canada Names Jason Denstedt as Sales Director, Central Canada (Ontario)

    June 1, 2023 Leviton Canada has recently announced the nomination of Jason Denstedt as Sales Director – Central Canada (Ontario), effective May 29th, 2023. Jason has over 20 years of sales, strategy, and brand development experience, with Kohler Canada, both regionally and nationally. He is a solution oriented professional, has a comprehensive sales approach and… Read More…

  • Ontario’s Electricity System Moves Forward with Largest Energy Storage Procurement Ever in Canada in 2023

    Ontario’s Electricity System Moves Forward with Largest Energy Storage Procurement Ever in Canada in 2023

    June 1, 2023 Independent Electricity System Operator announces 739 MW of energy storage projects to support reliability and sustainability goals. the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) announced it is moving forward with the procurement of seven new energy storage projects to provide 739 MW of capacity. After years of stable supply, Ontario’s electricity system is… Read More…

  • Apprenticeship START Program Nova Scotia Adopts New Eligibility Criteria in June 2023

    Apprenticeship START Program Nova Scotia Adopts New Eligibility Criteria in June 2023

    May 30, 2023 The Apprenticeship START Program was expanded in 2020 with additional funding in order to respond to the economic changes and challenges employers were facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID expansion funding will conclude on May 31st, 2023. Employers in the urban areas of Halifax Regional Municipality, Sydney and Truro who registered… Read More…