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More than 3,000 Canadian National Railway rail workers on strike

A CN locomotive moves in the railway yard in Dartmouth, N.S. on Monday, Feb. 23, 2015. Canadian National Railway Co. is confirming job cuts thanks to a weakening North American economy that has eroded railroad demand. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Thousands of CN Rail workers have gone on strike

The strike won't affect passenger rail service in Vancouver, like the West Coast Express

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – About 3,200 Canadian National Railway conductors, trainpersons and yard workers are on strike after the union and company failed to reach a deal by the midnight deadline.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, the union representing the employees, gave the required 72-hour strike notice on the weekend and the hope was a deal would be struck by 9:00 p.m. Monday, but that did not happen.

Union spokesman Christopher Monette says they are still in talks with CN in hopes of reaching a negotiated settlement and ending the labour dispute as soon as possible.

The union has said passenger rail services in the country’s three biggest cities would not be affected by the strike.

It represents workers at commuter rail services including Go Transit in Toronto, Exo in Montreal and the West Coast Express in Vancouver, where passengers would remain unaffected.

Peter Xotta with the Port of Vancouver says any type of work stoppage will negatively impact Canada’s overall economy and local supply chains will suffer too.

“Both import and export goods coming through the port every day — 140-million tonnes of everything that Canada exports and imports. That’s a considerable amount of cargo,” he told NEWS 1130 Monday, just before CN workers decided to strike later.

Peter Hall, a professor of Urban Studies at Simon Fraser University, says how long the strike lasts may depend on the country’s new minority government.

“They would need to get legislation passed. The state of federal politics does introduce perhaps a little bit more uncertainty than there normally is in these cases,” he explains, adding business in Prince Rupert would suffer immediately.

“For some of the other users it depends how long it goes on and how long people think it’s going to go on. If producers think it’s going to just be a short-term thing, expect them to shift some cargo to trucking and use that mode.”

However, Hall says most consumer products coming in for the Christmas season have already been distributed, so holiday shopping shouldn’t suffer.

The workers, who have been without a contract since July 23, say they’re concerned about long hours, fatigue and what they consider dangerous working conditions.

The dispute comes as CN confirmed Friday that it was cutting jobs across the railway as it deals with a weakening North American economy that has eroded demand.

With files from the Canadian Press