The specter of a major strike looms over VIA Rail

A nasty surprise awaits travelers who want to take the train to avoid the chaos at the airport: VIA Rail’s service could be seriously disrupted from next Monday as some 2,400 of its union members, represented by Unifor, raise the specter of a strike.

Posted at 5:51 p.m

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, most sectors of VIA Rail would be disrupted by a labor dispute as almost all union members would go out of work. 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 twenty negotiations 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 inflation into account”. In May, inflation was 7.7%, according to Statistics Canada – the highest annual increase since January 1983.

VIA Rail declined to say if there is a contingency plan in place in the event of a labor dispute. The Crown group announced in an e-mail that they wanted to continue “focusing on negotiating a fair and appropriate employment contract”.

“VIA Rail remains committed to conducting these negotiations in good faith with the aim of finalizing a new agreement before the deadline to avoid any disruption in service,” she said in a statement sent to The press.

For travelers, disrupting rail service would make travel more difficult as flight cancellations and delays at major airports across the country – and around the world – mount.

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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