Edit 5: Still not convinced to CNs "commitment to safety?" Here is the order from the government to update and modernize our work/rest rules to incorporate the "latest fatigue science." And here is the follow-up letter that states:

I would like to inform you that I have refused to approve the submissions submitted by railway companies in response to the MO 18-01 as they clearly do not address the fatigue-related risks identified in the Ministerial Order.

Edit 4: There is a reason this song exists.

Edit 3: For those wondering about CNs commitment to safety.

Edit 2: Quebec will run out of propane in 5 days. Just so people are aware trains are still running (albeit at reduced capacity)! CN management can run trains to supply Quebec with fuel! This is just an attempt to vilify conductors and the union.

Edit 1: CN has now sent an email directly to employees. Notably lacking: any actual solutions! Just a plea to go back to work and continue doing what they're doing.


Effective 2101 PST November 18th, Conductors, Yardmen/women and Yardmasters at CN Rail went on legal strike.

Disclaimer: I do not speak on behalf of the Union.

Proof: https://imgur.com/a/LQcSxNP

Let me first start by specifying what this strike is (and is not) about. It's not about increasing our pay, many of us (myself included) don't care about a pay raise. Our pay is sufficient (but our benefits are 20 years behind other unions). What we really want is a better quality of life!

In our industry it's not uncommon to be away from home for 100+ hours/week! It is also not uncommon to be severely fatigued and constantly fighting sleep. Imagine being jet lagged (you've been jet lagged, right?) well that's what it's like for us, except all the time!

Despite what you may think unions do not hold any significant amount of power. For example, CN management routinely violates our collective agreement (aka a contract)! We cannot refuse to do work even if a judge (or arbiter in our case) has ruled a certain task to be a violation of our collective agreement.

However, in return for doing the work we are supposed to be compensated by an amount which increases as the violations (aka breach of contract) continue. In theory, the increasing "fine" is supposed to dissuade CN from continuing to violate our collective contract, but CN has employed several tricks to circumvent this process:

  1. CN has long ago figured out that they can just fire people and that people who are fired will jump to the front of the queue for cases heard.
  2. Somewhat related to 1), CN will typically offer employees their job back (usually without lost wages) before their "day in court" thereby decreasing the number of cases an arbiter hears.
  3. They can file preliminary objection after preliminary objection after preliminary objection, so now one case (effectively) becomes two!

All of these points combined mean that an arbiter only hears (on average) 5 cases per month. These arbiters are responsible for hearing cases from (at least) 6 different companies across countless collective contracts. Very few cases are about being compensated for the thousands of violations (yes THOUSANDS, and that's just at CN) that happen each. and. every. month!

Being on strike is actually the only time we can fight for better rights and even then, the ink hasn't even dried before they start violating what they just agreed to.

Comments: 113 • Responses: 26  • Date: 

FreedomOfThought126 karma

Corporate greed has reached levels not seen since the great depression so I am a supporter.

What I would point out that lacks in your AMA title/explanation is what exactly you are fighting/striking for? Do you want longer vacation? Do you want more rights as a worker? Try to edit this post so it gives clear cut goals and demands people can understand.

If the company is circumventing your contract then what is the point of the contract? Sounds to me like there is no purpose to your CBA. I am in a union that temporarily circumvents the CBA for the greater good of the union but it is exactly that...a temporary fix to a permanent problem. While I would not agree with this on paper in practice the membership is served by this greater good but overall it weakens our strength at the table.

As for your grievances not being heard or payed attention to? Good luck on that fight. In america you can't wait years to have your grievances heard by NLRB and they can even vote in your favor but it doesn't matter cause who has the money to sit unpaid for years at a time? The odds that the company will still be in business at the end is even less likely.

So good on you guys striking. This fight needs to happen much more often than it ever does.

CNDoctor12 karma

Corporate greed has reached levels not seen since the great depression so I am a supporter.

1.2B profit on 3.8B in revenue last quarter.

What I would point out that lacks in your AMA title/explanation is what exactly you are fighting/striking for? Do you want longer vacation? Do you want more rights as a worker? Try to edit this post so it gives clear cut goals and demands people can understand.

Thanks for the suggestion, I thought I did, but for clarity I have made it more obvious.

If the company is circumventing your contract then what is the point of the contract? Sounds to me like there is no purpose to your CBA. I am in a union that temporarily circumvents the CBA for the greater good of the union but it is exactly that...a temporary fix to a permanent problem. While I would not agree with this on paper in practice the membership is served by this greater good but overall it weakens our strength at the table.

CN does try to follow the agreement but only so long as it's convenient for them! As soon as things get tough they willfully ignore our contract with the knowledge that they will never have to pay for it.

What I want isn't necessarily what the union is fighting for. There are MANY ways in which to improve our quality of life and improve collective agreement compliance. Increased vacation - yes please. Better scheduling, more rest, decreasing mileage regulations for single sub crews (that's sort of hard to explain), etc.

I would personally like to have the right to refuse work that is known to violate our agreement! We shouldn't have to do it if they willfully refuse to pay.

zomb_l10 karma

1.2B profit on 3.8B in revenue last quarter.

For a company with a market capitalization of $87B. So being an investor/shareholder provides returns of about 5% per year. Not exactly an exorbitant return/profit...

elus6 karma

No one looks at market cap unless they're looking to see how overvalued a company is. Net income to sales ratio is a more appropriate metric. It's not the employee's faults if capitalists buy the company at high prices.

CNDoctor11 karma

Thank you, I didn't want to get into these types of arguments/discussions because it's a red herring.

VirtualsRealLife-3 karma

Down with the capitalists!!...right?

CNDoctor2 karma

I'm not against capitalism, I'm again unencumbered and unbridled capitalism. Unions are just the people's attempt to keep it from leaving everyone behind. We are part of the capitalist structure too!

PM_ME_NAUGHTY_PIC12 karma

If your benefits at this point are 20 years behind, have you guys tried striking before? At what point do you think the company will give in to your demands?

What is a better quality of life for you? is it the benefits or the hours that you are upset about? If they constantly violate rules won't they be able to agree to the demands in order to end the strike, but then continue to violate the agreement?

CNDoctor13 karma

If your benefits at this point are 20 years behind, have you guys tried striking before? At what point do you think the company will give in to your demands?

The last time we (conductors) wanted to strike the (conservative) federal government threatened to legislate us back to work before we could actually strike.

What is a better quality of life for you? is it the benefits or the hours that you are upset about? If they constantly violate rules won't they be able to agree to the demands in order to end the strike, but then continue to violate the agreement?

More rest would be a start! More vacation. New hires only get 2 weeks of annual vacation when starting out, after 3 years - 3 weeks, after 10 years - 4 weeks. Vacation maxes out at 6 weeks after 30 years of service.

PM_ME_NAUGHTY_PIC2 karma

I understand the need for more vacation, though definitely not to the point you do since my weeks are only 50-60 hours. Do you get paid overtime for the extra hours or are you salaried? Also who gets the money from the fines that the company pays everytime they break your agreement?

CNDoctor13 karma

I understand the need for more vacation, though definitely not to the point you do since my weeks are only 50-60 hours.

I should clarify, that it isn't usual to actually work for 100 hours per week. We are just away from home for that time.

Do you get paid overtime for the extra hours or are you salaried? Also who gets the money from the fines that the company pays everytime they break your agreement?

We are paid mileage when working on the road, there is no "overtime" in the sense that you're speaking. Yard employees (Yardmen/women and Yardmasters) are paid hourly - they are paid overtime.

The employees who are violated are supposed to receive the "remedy" payment. In my entire career (11 years) I've received 5 remedy payments but I've filled hundreds (maybe even in the low thousands) of grievances!

brettcb-14 karma

My employees now take 17 years to get to 4 weeks. Only get 3 weeks after 5 years because that's law in Alberta. They max out at 5 weeks. 20 years ago they had 8 weeks. So I know of at least one major Canadian union whose members would like what you have

CNDoctor11 karma

So are you arguing that because someone else has it worse, we have no right to fight for what we fighting for? Let's all race to the bottom.

CNDoctor5 karma

Email from CN directly to employees:

Dear Fellow Railroaders,

For the last several months, we have been working with the TCRC-CTY to negotiate new collective agreements. Despite our efforts, the union committee has rejected all our offers and called a strike that will hurt all of us, our customers, and the economy. Given the magnitude of these consequences, we felt it necessary to make sure you understand what has transpired.

CN Conductors (myself included) voted 99% in favor of strike action. We are well aware of what has transpired.

As we shared with you before, we have concluded 11 agreements this year with unions representing approximately 7,000 of your colleagues. In all of those ratified agreements, we are providing compensation adjustments better than inflation each year. Those agreements covering other CN employees also improved short-term disability and maternity leave benefits, provide current dental fee guides as the basis for dental coverage and improved annual dental maximums and vision care benefits. Basic life insurance was also increased each year of the agreement and the employee share purchase plan is continued.

To reach an agreement before a strike, we offered similar wages and benefits to the TCRC-CTY represented employees.

Again, not something that we were asking for! However, increasing our benefits in line with unionized employees would nice.

We also agreed to work rule changes that were of importance to your committee. Safety is a core value at CN and although the union said in the press that the strike was about safety, those statements are not accurate. We did discuss riding the point and we offered the union a solution to address its concerns.

So what was the "solution?" The reason they didn't actually specify what they were proposing is because they knew we would all collectively say "BULLSHIT!"

We also discussed the start of personal rest periods when employees are transported to their rest facility. Again, the company offered a solution to address the concerns. All work rule issues we were discussing were about the grievance process or premium payments associated with work performed.

Again, a "solution." CN is famous (amongst it's employees) for it's solutions. I can personally tell you stories about their "commitment to safety" and their so-called "solutions."

In return for our movement on their issues, we requested two changes to help us move cars through the yards, improve service, and also get road crews off duty or out of the terminal efficiently. By allowing for the assembly of a train on the minimum number of tracks plus one more to facilitate the marshalling of distributed power and air repeater cars, we could reduce the amount of switching time for crews departing the terminal. The second adjustment would allow the inbound train crew to couple to cars in a track in order to clear the switch and complete the yarding of their train, something which is already allowed on over half of our network and other Class 1 railways.

TL;DR More work for you (IE more hours at work) so CN can get trains out of town faster. This is precisely what we DON'T want to do - work more and for longer hours.

We believe it is also important for you to know that we have local Health and Safety committees across the country with senior leaders of the union and the company. If there are safety concerns, these committees are designed to discuss such issues and find solutions.

As the TCRC leaders appear confident about their position, we thought they would have agreed to our arbitration suggestion. We are prepared to present our arguments to a neutral arbitrator to avoid this dispute, and we would have hoped the union would have been willing to do the same. A neutral arbitrator could hear our positions and decide what is right. Arbitration would get you back to work in time for the holidays, and we could all continue to serve our customers and the economy.

While we negotiate with your union leaders, we understand your decision and respect your right to picket peacefully, safely and in a manner that does not disrupt or delay our operations. As long as you stay within the bounds of the law, we will not try to seek intervention from the police or courts.

Your voice is important and we recommend, at the minimum, that you consider all the facts in your decision to support this strike or not. Should you feel that you want to return to work, either through an agreement where you could have the choice to ratify, or through the arbitration process, you are entitled to let your union leaders know.

If you have questions, please feel free to ask your manager. They will relay your questions to us.

We are ready to continue talks or go to arbitration, and we are counting on your willingness to resolve this dispute quickly.

Rob Reilly

Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer

Kim Madigan

Senior Vice-President, Human Resources

2019/11/20

AnthroBlues5 karma

Having worked in transportation before, I concur that safety standards are, at best, lacking or, at worst, an absolute joke. What example can you offer from your experience that are emblematic of CN disregard for safety?

CNDoctor3 karma

Activ8. CN asked for suggestions from employees on how to improve safety.

Ideas (that I can remember - it was almost 2 years ago):

1) Get rid of lanterns because they're awkward (and bulky) to work with. Freeing our hands to actually work. The current lanterns are exactly as you would expect in the early 1900s but not now.

2) Improve lighting in yards.

3) Add AEDs to locomotives. Working in remote locations and all that.

4) Improve visibility of derails. Color them pink, add flashing lights, add a flag were several suggestions.

And so many others, there were literally hundreds and hundreds of suggestions. CN implemented (badly)...checklists. They picked the lowest hanging fruit!

MasterNate902 karma

Man, I once did a 548 to Davidson and the one industry out there, I think panther, was heavenly with all the lights and each switch/derail.

CNDoctor3 karma

industry

Yup. That is, not CN property. They could learn a thing from Davidson, apparently.

RonOurTest594 karma

How long have you been working for CN?

Either from your experience or from talking with co workers with longer tenures, how much of this animosity between the railroad and its workers is a result of Harrison's time as CEO?

CNDoctor9 karma

How long have you been working for CN?

11+ years.

Either from your experience or from talking with co workers with longer tenures, how much of this animosity between the railroad and its workers is a result of Harrison's time as CEO?

Hunter certainly started what we have today, but (some) subsequent CEOs have been just as bad. I hope Hunter is in hell right now, but sadly, since I'm an apatheist, I think he's just dead.

civver33 karma

How large is the geographic range covered by a driver on their routes? How are these areas assigned.

CNDoctor9 karma

Each employee has a "home terminal" and usually they run for 95 to 300 miles to their "away from home terminal."

ltrifone3 karma

You are being censored by some bot on the /r/britishcolumbia sub, so I am following you here.

If you wanted to do longer runs, say Vancouver to Halifax, is that an option? Most airline pilots fight for longer trans-ocean flights in order to obtain longer periods of time off.

CNDoctor6 karma

You are being censored by some bot on the /r/britishcolumbia sub, so I am following you here.

Thank you.

If you wanted to do longer runs, say Vancouver to Halifax, is that an option?

No. Currently CN can't run further because of hours of service regulations (which we are also fighting to decrease). Running all the way across the country is unnecessary because there are home terminals all across the country.

ltrifone3 karma

Why would you want to decrease the hours of service?

I work a career that is something like 60 days on 30 days off. More Sr. people can negotiate schedules like 30 on & 30 off. In rare cases people can negotiate for 2-weeks on 2 -weeks off.

In my case I am single and work international, so a month off in Bali is pretty sweet. Other colleagues have kids and work domestically and spend their 30 days walking their kids back and forth to school.

Maximizing both work hours and time off hours is the way to go.

CNDoctor10 karma

Why would you want to decrease the hours of service?

Because we are tired! Fatigue is a problem. Sleeping on trains happens! Hours are too long.

I work a career that is something like 60 days on 30 days off. More Sr. people can negotiate schedules like 30 on & 30 off.

We can't negotiate like that.

Maximizing both work hours and time off hours is the way to go.

Absolutely not! That's why we are striking! We are trying to maximize time off. We have already maximized our working time.

ltrifone-1 karma

We can't negotiate like that.

Why not? Oil & gas has specific exemptions in the labour laws that exempts us from essentially all hours of work laws.

We like it like that. It comes with huge advantages. Once you get used to having 15 to 25 weeks off a year, it becomes really hard to change your lifestyle into something different. As I mentioned, long haul airline pilots live similar lives with similar sacrifices.

CNDoctor7 karma

Why not?

I'll say it again, we DON'T want to work more! That's what we're striking for! And changing our agreement so we work more for more time off, requires a lot of changes to our agreement.

earoar4 karma

"Why would you want more than realistically a few hours of sleep before piloting a something pulling hundreds of thousands of pounds of hazardous materials through peoples communities?"

Ya good question

ltrifone-4 karma

Laziness? Pilots and flight attendants have secret beds to take naps on the roofs of 747's on 16 hour flights, I'm pretty sure there is enough room to nap on a bench on the train.

CNDoctor2 karma

Laziness? Pilots and flight attendants have secret beds to take naps on the roofs of 747's on 16 hour flights

Well we fucking DON'T! We sometimes wish we did.

I'm pretty sure there is enough room to nap on a bench on the train.

No, we mostly get an uncomfortable chair that reclines like an airline seat (in coach)! Fuck off troll!

NashtenS3 karma

Would having more people working for CN alleviate many of your long working time issues? I noticed they have lots of job positions all over the country.

It seems to be like the Skytrain system in Vancouver; it’s perpetually understaffed to the point where overtime is mandatory to make the schedule happen. Yet, while they are yearning for workers, they absolutely do not want to train people from scratch, nor sponsor apprentices. A subrequirement /to even be considered/ for a Skytrain security officer is to be former RCMP. But the Skytrain security will be paid less and have worse benefits/perks for essentially the same job as an RCMP officer. How does that make sense?

Does CN train people from scratch? How do they hire people? Would you encourage people to join if having more people around would make your job easier?

Just a side note: I do want to be a railroader. ;)

CNDoctor3 karma

Would having more people working for CN alleviate many of your long working time issues? I noticed they have lots of job positions all over the country.

CN is planning on laying off many people (but that's not what this strike is about since layoffs happen in our industry all the time). They are not even using the people they have (the ones being laid off) to improve our schedules. If we succeed, more of these people won't be laid off.

Does CN train people from scratch? How do they hire people? Would you encourage people to join if having more people around would make your job easier?

Yes, CN trains "from scratch." If you want to hire on, you apply to a job posting on the CN website.

Just a side note: I do want to be a railroader. ;)

Good luck, the attrition is terrible. In my class of 16(ish) in 2008 only 3-5 remained 4 years later. I don't recall the exact numbers because that was a long time ago.

NashtenS3 karma

Very interesting. Would it be accurate to say that there is a gross mismanagement of labour and hours? Having hundreds of job postings up for all direct railroad roles - conductors, engineers, track maintenance, etc... yet continually laying people off and requiring those not being laid off work harder would be considered gross mismanagement in my field.

Attrition I get. In my industry, it’s very rare to get people to stay for more than 6 months. Or when people complete their apprenticeship because they decided to stay, they quit the field outright and never go back.

Just as a personal note again; I’ve applied to the major hiring spots and got nowhere. Makes me think that ‘getting in’ is like a lottery. My dad is a longshoreman, and his work is 100% barred from entry by a lottery.

Your responses on other questions are very informative.

CNDoctor5 karma

Very interesting. Would it be accurate to say that there is a gross mismanagement of labour and hours? Having hundreds of job postings up for all direct railroad roles - conductors, engineers, track maintenance, etc... yet continually laying people off and requiring those not being laid off work harder would be considered gross mismanagement in my field.

There is definitely labour mismanagement, but if anything CN is utilizing the shit out of us! We're sick of it.

Yes, it's rather paradoxical that they're hiring even while laying off employees.

Jumlee772 karma

Is CN worth getting into, I’m trying to find a good company to have a future in?

CNDoctor7 karma

Maybe, but certainly not in the running trades, the hours are terrible but it pays well... If I had known things were going to be so bad I'm not sure I would have stayed in this job.

Jumlee771 karma

How’s the work life balance, lol

CNDoctor8 karma

It sucks! Miss a call? That's 10 demerits. Unfit (same case)? 20 demerits, etc. Get 60 and you're fired.

airplane-driver2 karma

Ok my one question.

How much does an average person make a year and what does the sked lol like?

CNDoctor2 karma

Last year I made ~120k and I'm an "average" worker. I could make more if I wanted to. The schedule? It's non existent (for me anyways)! It's sort of possible to control when you go to work by booking rest when you go off duty. If you work a yard job then you have an actual schedule.

CityUnknown2 karma

When do you think you will return to work? Just a guesstimate?

CNDoctor3 karma

The longest conductor strike in the last 20 40 years was 11 7 days. So probably around that long. Guesstimate.

MaesterTim1 karma

Mid December is what I have heard

CNDoctor1 karma

Could be, who knows?

ChrisSee2 karma

How can the average Joe support the action?

CNDoctor5 karma

Honestly, just being aware of the actual issues. This isn't about pay despite what CN is trying to tell you (and us). Spread the word about this AMA. I would say write a letter to your MP but that's pointless, especially if your MP is a conservative.

mcjagga-12 karma

Do you understand how much damage you are doing to the Canadian economy right now?

CNDoctor12 karma

Do you understand how much damage you are doing to the Canadian economy right now?

So anyone who might "damage the economy" are no longer entitled to free association? Every company that goes on strike technically "damages the economy."

mcjagga-6 karma

You're free to strike, and I'm free to hope you lose your job over this. If you don't like your job get a new one.

CNDoctor13 karma

If you don't like your job get a new one.

I hate idiots (like yourself) who use this argument. You do realize that if everyone could just quit their job if they didn't like it they would, right? You're aware people have families and responsibilities, right?

"Sorry fam, I just quit my job because I don't like it anymore. Hopefully I can find another job (crosses fingers with a big shit-eating grin on my face). Don't worry u/mcjagga said it wouldn't be a problem."

E: BTW, when I was 15 years younger I did do this (quit my job if I didn't like it). Now I have a wife and 3 kids.

mcjagga0 karma

Ah yes, you took the wrong job and now it's CN's fault. Poor poor you.

You're such a victim aren't you? Maybe we can set up a go fund me for you and your poor family who have been brutally wronged by your employer.

CNDoctor11 karma

Sick burn, bro.