July 24, 2009

Strike hits Canadian passenger trains

Engineers for Canada's national passenger train operator went on strike midday Friday after four days of labor negotiations broke down.

Around 1 a.m., VIA issued a statement saying talks with the locomotive engineers' union had reached an impasse and a noon shutdown was possible. The strike was called at midday.

Along with a federally appointed mediator, talks have been going on all week between three VIA officials and six members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference union, which represents 340 engineers. They have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2006. Its members voted 91.2 percent in favor of a strike, the Toronto Star said.

The issues of contention are wages, benefits, working conditions and terms of workers' contracts, the Canwest News Service reported.

VIA Wednesday announced cancellations of several cross-country routes to avoid stranding passengers in the event of a strike.

About 12,000 passengers use VIA services each day, the Star said.

Meanwhile, Porter Airlines, a regional carrier based at Toronto Island airport, took advantage of the strike by offering stranded VIA passengers a 25 percent discount on flights, a release said.