CN Rail workers continue strike over drug benefits, safety concerns

Roughly 3,200 Canadian National Railway Co. workers are on strike with outstanding issues including time-off provisions and lifetime caps on certain benefits.

The strike, which began at midnight on Nov. 19, has seen conductors, train personnel and yard workers represented by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference pushing for further bargaining progress on these issues and others, including safety and fatigue.

Specific to benefits, the company wants to implement a lifetime cap on prescription drug benefits, which would be “tantamount to denying workers — and their families — proper treatment for some forms of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and other diseases,” according to the union.

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“CN is telling our members that they are facing tough times, but the reality is that they made over $3.8 billion in the third quarter of 2019,” said Lyndon Isaak, president of the TCRC. “They should be ashamed to be pleading poverty.”

Meanwhile, an update from CN Rail highlighted improvements made to workers’ compensation and benefits established in other recent negotiations. The company said, in agreements made with other unions earlier this year, it made adjustments to annual compensation at rates better than inflation in 10 out of 11 agreements.

It said it also made improvements to short-term disability benefits, basic life insurance, maternity leave and vision and dental care in all 11 agreements. These agreements include employee share-purchase programs, added CN Rail, and employees also have a defined benefit pension plan.

“While we continue to negotiate, we understand the employees’ decision and respect their right to picket peacefully, safely and in a manner that does not disrupt or delay our operations,” said Jean-Jacques Ruest, CN Rail’s president and chief executive officer, in a press release.

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