The specter of a major strike looms over VIA Rail

A nasty surprise awaits travelers thinking of taking the train to avoid the chaos at the airport: VIA Rail could cease operations from next Monday as 2,400 of its union members, represented by Unifor, raise the specter of a strike, which would paralyze rail traffic.

Updated yesterday at 10:46pm.

Julian Arsenal

Julian Arsenal
The press

“There is no train that can run,” say union representatives Alexandre Lamarre and Stéphane Isabel in a telephone interview. It will be a shock zone, especially with Air Canada canceling flights every day. »

At the beginning of the summer season, in the event of a strike, all VIA Rail services would be suspended. Unifor Local 100 represents 700 maintenance workers – mechanics, electricians, refrigeration technicians – including 400 at the maintenance center in Montreal. Council 4000 has 1700 members who are mainly distributed at stations, on trains and in administrative offices.

According to the gentlemen. Lamarre and Isabel, the workers’ contract expired on December 31st. Despite around twenty negotiation and arbitration sessions, the employer has not submitted a salary offer, the union claims.

According to Unifor, Crown Corporation is asking for several concessions, including withdrawing from an agreement that would result in the loss of job security for affected workers.

“It offers a laid-off employee about 80% of his salary, union officials say. Before the pandemic, it cost the employer nothing. But that changed with the crisis because there were layoffs. Our members want it because this clause has saved families. »

Members of both units voted almost unanimously in favor of strike mandates. Voting ended on January 1stah last July. According to the trade union party, talks stalled a few days before the deadline for avoiding a strike.

Inflationary catch-up

Unifor hasn’t put a figure on its wage demands, instead calling for increases that “take account of inflation”. In May, inflation was 7.7%, according to Statistics Canada – the highest annual increase since January 1983.

On Thursday evening, VIA Rail President and CEO Martin Landry reiterated that Crown Corporation was committed to “negotiating a fair and reasonable agreement. In his statement sent via press release, he acknowledged that there was no contingency plan.

“If no agreement is reached, VIA Rail will be forced to suspend all services for the duration of the strike and until normal operations can safely resume,” Landry said. This potential work stoppage comes at a time when we have resumed almost all of our services. »

Affected customers can change their reservation or opt for a full refund of unused tickets. For travelers, however, this scenario would make travel more difficult as flight cancellations and delays at major airports across the country – and around the world – increase.

Problems in the airline industry and at airports have prompted Air Canada to follow in the footsteps of other airlines. The country’s largest airline has been forced to ground more than 15% of its summer flights, or about 150 flights a day.

According to data from the company DataWazo, as of Thursday afternoon, almost 40% of domestic flights did not take off at the scheduled time.

Nationally, Toronto Pearson Airport was the most affected by delays (departures and arrivals), accounting for 31% and 32% of flights, respectively. On the Montreal-Trudeau side, a quarter of flights were delayed at departure. On the arrival side, the proportion was similar.

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  • 400
    Across the country, VIA Rail, headquartered in Montreal, says it serves more than 400 communities.

    Source: VIA Rail

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