Train dispute still off-track
For nearly two months, onboard attendants for the Rocky Mountaineer train have been locked out — and it doesn’t appear the labour dispute is going to end any time soon.
Both sides in the dispute haven’t met in weeks and no talks or negotiations are planned.
“I would characterize the situation as we’re currently at an impasse,” said Ian Robertson, Rocky Mountaineer’s executive director of corporate communications.
He noted the company put forward a contract offer to employees a few weeks ago, but it was rejected.
Teamsters Union Local 31, which represents the 108 locked-out attendants, claims Rocky Mountaineer is responsible for dragging out the dispute.
“If they want us, they can find us and easily put an end to this,” said Rod Blackburn, secretary treasurer of the union.
The onboard attendants have been locked out since June 22, after serving strike notice just a few days earlier.
The collective agreement ended earlier this year.
“We felt we had no other option but to lock out the onboard attendants,” Robertson said.
A conciliator has been called in to help the two sides reach an agreement.
In the meantime, Rocky Mountaineer has hired replacement workers to keep the service rolling smoothly.
Blackburn said the company is trying to break the union and make it “disappear.
He said the biggest stumbling block in reaching an agreement, from the union’s perspective, is overtime, with employees asking for overtime to kick in after 11 hours of work.
Under the old deal, overtime was based on an averaging of hours over an eight-week period.
Blackburn said some attendants could work 16 hours in a day, but still not qualify for overtime.
The union has also accused Rocky Mountaineer of dirty tactics, including spying on picketing workers, videotaping their activities and following them to a rally at city hall, far away from the closest trains, allegations Rocky Mountaineer denies.
Robertson said the company has a responsibilty to maintain the safety of passengers and employees and ensure workers are picketing in a legal way.
He said Rocky Mountaineer has hired security to monitor picket activities.
The company has asked the B.C. Supreme Court to issue an injunction against the union picketing at Rocky Mountaineer’s stations and offices.
Last week, pickets converged in Kamloops.
The court has yet to make a decision on the company’s request.