Canadian National Railways conductors, trainpersons and yardpersons have given strike notice ahead of a Tuesday deadline, not long after the company confirmed it is planning a wave of layoffs.
The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, which represents 3,200 workers, provided the 72-hour notice on Saturday as contract negotiations continued over the weekend.
The union warned in October it was prepared to launch job action after over six months of unsuccessful talks. A strike could begin at 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 19 now that the notice has been provided.
Meanwhile, CN Rail confirmed it plans to cut jobs as it deals with a weakening North American economy that has eroded demand for railroad transportation.
The company said it is “adjusting its resources to demand” but wouldn’t say how many people will be affected.
It said some employees will be placed on furlough and there will be reductions in both management and union job numbers.
In October, Canada’s largest railroad operator cut its adjusted earnings per share outlook percentage for 2019 to the high single digits, down from predictions of low double-digit growth.
Freight volumes came in below expectations in the third quarter and manufacturing has also fallen off, it said.
The railroad also said it was affected by a slowdown in the British Columbia forestry sector, where high log prices and dwindling timber supply have prompted shutdowns or curtailments in more than two dozen mills, and due to the weather-delayed grain crop on the Prairies.
“As explained during CN’s Q3 results, the company is adjusting its resources to demand,” said spokesman Alexandre Boule in a statement.
“This includes the difficult decision of adjusting its workforce to demand levels by placing some employees on furlough and reducing both management and union job numbers due to a weakening of many sectors of the economy. These adjustments have already started to take place across the network.”
CN says the union declined its offer to enter into binding arbitration.
The workers, who are mostly located in major urban centres across Canada, have been without a contract since July 23.
― The Canadian Press, with a file from HuffPost Canada