MONTREAL – Via Rail Canada train service will resume late Sunday after the company and the union representing more than 300 striking engineers reached an agreement to end a strike that paralyzed passenger service across the country.
The company expects full service to resume by Monday morning.
The agreement was reached after Via and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) met with a mediator, the company and the union said Sunday.
“Following that meeting they decided to send any outstanding issues that remain to be resolved to a process of binding arbitration,” Via spokesman Malcolm Andrews told the media at a news conference.
“More importantly, they agreed to come back to work so that Canada’s passenger rail service could be up and running again.”
TCRC President Dan Shewchuk said in a statement the union opted for a deal because they reached the conclusion that “there was no possible agreement in the short term.”
“The strike may have lasted for weeks or months,” said Shewchuk.
“The decision to go on strike was not an easy decision but we had to do something to motivate the employer and get the process moving.”
Shewchuk also thanked union members for their support during what he called a challenging negotiation process.
“We look forward to having our members back on the trains,” he added.
Minister of Labour Rona Ambrose welcomed the agreement and thanked both sides for making “extra efforts.”
“This agreement will help Canadian families, many of whom depend on Via Rail service, and the national economy at this time of year when tourism is at its peak,” Ambrose said in a statement.
Contract negotiations between Via and the union broke down last Thursday and 340 engineers walked off the job at noon on Friday.
They had been without a contract since Dec.31, 2006.
The union’s key demands have been improvements in work schedules and the training of new engineers.
Several hundred employees who were laid off due to the strike will also return to work immediately, said Andrews.
He said the arbitration is expected to take several weeks before a collective agreement is signed.
He said the quick conclusion to the strike was due to its significant impact on tourism and travel during on of the busiest travel periods of the year.
Via trains normally carry about 12-thousand passengers a day.
Andrews confirmed that clients inconvenienced by the strike will be eligible for some form of compensation.
“We are currently looking at some innovative and tangible ways that we can say sorry to our customers,” he said.