Disclaimer: I am not an executive with the TCRC and this statement has not been vetted by them. I am simply an employee and union member who is expressing his own personal opinion.
As a member of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) on strike in Brandon, I can’t help but be frustrated with the actions of the federal government in this matter and the inflammatory statements being released by Canadian Pacific Railway.
First of all, we are in this position because CP Rail, in applying for mediation because the TCRC refused their proposal to reduce our membership’s pension benefits by up to 40 per cent, started a legal process under the Canadian labour law that has led us to the point where we are now on strike. (To be fair, CP had the option to lock us out within the same timeline.)
Now we find ourselves in a situation where neither the company nor the strikers are earning any money. One would think that this would be the perfect catalyst for reaching a negotiated settlement. However, the federal government has stepped in and has announced that it is seriously considering enacting back-to-work legislation at its earliest opportunity.
With that legislation, as we have seen with Canada Post and Air Canada, binding arbitration usually follows. The history of binding arbitration in past disputes between CP and its unions as well as with the other employers mentioned shows a tendency for the employer to benefit over the workers. Canadian Pacific knows this and therefore is quite willing to accept that binding arbitration. The incentive for them to bargain in good faith is gone.
As well, it has been noted that the majority of stories in the media are making the TCRC look like the “bad guy.” CP calls this strike “unnecessary” but it is anything but. We are on strike for our retirements. Our members pay the highest premiums to a registered pension plan of any employees in any industry in the country. CP wishes to base future pension amounts on the RPP at another railway where they pay just over 50 per cent of what we do in premiums. CP can’t cry poverty because they have been bragging in the media for months about how they are making record profits and are improving all the time. As well, management’s generous pensions are NOT on the block and their benefits are increasing.
CP’s spokesman speaks of all of the additional layoffs they are initiating because of this strike. That is pure fear-mongering and vilification of the TCRC. With back-to-work legislation looming, operations will be back to normal long before the mandatory two-week notice of layoff period has expired.
No other CP employees will actually lose work because of this strike. CP knows this, but is trying to turn public opinion against hard-working employees who just want to have some more time with their families and be able to provide for themselves in retirement.
Please understand that we are not asking for more money. We are only asking for what is rightfully ours. We contribute very large amounts to our RPP and would like to take advantage of the benefits that are due to us. I, personally, have been paying these premiums for over 30 years and am getting close to retirement. The last time I checked, Canadian Pacific Railway wasn’t run by Bernie Maddoff, so the money should be there, shouldn’t it?
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 25, 2012