Saturday, November 28, 2009

It's not a strike, it's a LOCKOUT

When a company tells it's unionized employees that it plans to unilaterally disregard the negotiation process and when they show up to work the next day they will be working under new imposed non-negotiated terms and the employees refuse to do so that is not a strike. It's a lock out.

The engineers have been working without a contract for close to 11 months. Their union says a strike could have been postponed had the railway agreed to negotiate and not impose a 1.5 per cent wage increase, along with higher mileage caps.

"Well, it’s truly unfortunate, but the situation started on Monday when Canadian National arbitrarily imposed changes to our collective agreement that imposed more hours on our members," Teamsters Canada Rail Conference president Daniel Shewchuk said Saturday.

"And then reluctantly we had to serve strike notice after that to protect our members from further changes to the collective agreement," he said.

But of course there's been lots of comment about how the union is being unreasonable and radical.

Tell me, as an employee can you dictate terms to your employer? Can a union say 'As of Monday these are the terms we work under. This is what we get paid and this is the hours we work.'? No, of course not.

Why is it that the reverse is acceptable?

CN has been following a policy of demanding ever faster work from ever less employees. Safety and good employee relations has taken a back seat to speed and 'efficiency'.

The results have been as predictable as they have been gruesome.
Deregulation and safety cutbacks make a major disaster on Canada's railways virtually inevitable says The Canada Safety Council. They advocate returning Transport Canada's authority over safety standards - since 1999 the industry has been under 'self managed safety'.
The council's Emile Therien told CTV News that one possible result could be the "major evacuation of a major urban area ... and all the attendant cost that goes along with that."
This has personal resonance for me as I have a family cabin literally about 40 yards from the site of the CN Wabamun disaster in the summer of 2005. 40 yards uphill from it fortunately, or I probably wouldn't have a cabin anymore. As it is, tons of tarry Bunker C oil poured into the beautiful lake that my family has considered our second home since the 1930's.

We had to force CN to take the accident seriously and start cleaning the damage - once they had cleared the tracks enough to resume train passage they showed no urgency about dealing with the rivers of oil sludge flowing from the shattered tank cars into the lake. I was locked out and on the picket line in front of my Telus office when I got a phone call from my mother, who had been the first person on the scene dialling 911 on her cell after the accident nearly tossed her out of bed in the pre-dawn hours.
My direct experience of the behavior of the management of this corporation is one of lying contempt, arrogant entitlement and the unquestioned assumption that they can get their own way.

It is my hope that the Teamsters prove them wrong about that.

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