Canadian Auto Workers gives strike notice to Via Rail, deadline set for June 14

MONTREAL – The Canadian Auto Workers union and Via Rail are conducting marathon negotiations to avoid a strike deadline set for next week.

The union, which represents about 2,000 customer service, on-board service and maintenance workers at the railway, and Via have set a deadline of June 14, 12:01 a.m.

“We’re bargaining right through until the 14th,” said Bobby Orr, assistant to CAW president Ken Lewenza.

The union served 72-hour strike notice on Monday, but will not be in a legal position to walk off the job until June 14 following a mandatory cooling off period.

“We’ve never had a strike here and we’re going to work as hard as we can to get an agreement, but it’s got to resolve the issues that are important to us,” Orr said in an interview.

Contract talks have been ongoing since October.

Union members voted 94 per cent in favour of a strike if necessary.

After participating in talks on Monday, Lewenza said the high strike vote reflects frustrations and insecurities felt towards VIA.

“This is a direct result of a drop in federal funding and VIA’s so-called ‘modernization’ plan which has seen routes cut, stations closed and de-staffed. This plan is not the path to modernizing Canada’s passenger railway services.”

The railway said it’s determined to reach new collective agreements with its CAW-represented employees before the deadline.

“Via Rail remains optimistic that an agreement will be reached between the parties. Parties have been in conciliation since April. They are currently in mediation,” it said.

“Via Rail will continue to be fully functional and provide the same level of service, on-time departures and arrivals, on-board quality service and safety to its passengers, employees and the public as it normally does.”