Federal govt. should respect labour rights in CN strike | National Union of Public and General Employees

Federal govt. should respect labour rights in CN strike

The unsafe conditions workers are fighting to end affect more than just CN employees. When an accident occurs it can endanger communities near the accident site.

Ottawa (22 Nov. 2019) ― NUPGE has called on the federal government to respect the labour rights and Charter rights of CN workers who are legally on strike. In a letter to the Prime Minister, NUPGE President Larry Brown pointed out that both the Canadian Constitution and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 98 guarantee the right to strike and the right to bargain collectively. He also pointed out that, if they are not addressed, the health and safety issues that are at the heart of the workers' dispute with CN will place both workers and communities in danger.

Health and safety main reason for the CN strike

What’s at issue in this strike is the safety of workers and communities that CN trains go through.

As the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) has pointed out, currently workers “operate trains alone from outside of the locomotive, hanging on to moving trains with one hand while operating a remotely controlled locomotive with the other (For tasks like switching freight cars between trains, workers will often operate locomotives using remote control devices instead of from inside the engine cab).” Workers are expected to do this regardless of the weather and for distances of up to 27 kilometres.

CN is also trying to make it harder for workers to take time off and wants to force them to work longer hours. The employer is making this demand even though the Transportation Safety Board has identified fatigue as a major safety problem in the rail industry and has said fatigue was a factor in a large number of accidents.

The unsafe conditions workers are fighting to end affect more than just CN employees. When an accident occurs it can endanger communities near the accident site.

Federal govt. needs to honour commitment to workers’ rights

In its first term of office, the federal government adopted ILO Convention 98 that affirms the right to strike and collectively bargain. But the real test of whether governments respect labour rights comes at times like this.

Workers have been left with no option except to strike to get the employer to address concerns about health and safety. If the government genuinely believes in labour rights, and if the government genuinely believes workers are entitled to a safe workplace, it will refrain from even discussing measures like back-to-work legislation.


NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE

 

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