Several hundred CP Rail workers and their supporters marched up and down Victoria Road in a rally for the striking union Friday afternoon.
“We just thought we’d have a show of support,” said Gary Starling, the secretary-treasurer and legislative representative for the Revelstoke local of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference. “We’re deep into a fairly difficult struggle with the company.”
The union, which represents about 4,800 conductors, engineers and rail traffic controllers across Canada, and about 340 locally, has been on strike since Wednesday at midnight.
After holding rotating pickets for the first 2.5 days of the strike, about 300 people came out together for the rally. Holding picket signs, they marched alongside the tracks from the CP Parking lot at Victoria Road and 1st Street East to about the 7-11 and back again.
The main issues in bargaining are pensions and scheduling. The union says CP Rail is looking to claw back pensions by as much as 40 per cent. The company said it has had to fund pensions to the tune of $1.9 billion over the past three years to meet its obligations.
“It’s bad for me but it’s even worse for the younger guys,” said Les Daley, the chairman of the local engineers, who has been with CP for 31 years.
The company is looking to align pensions with those of CN Rail, but Daley said that union elected higher wages at the expense of pensions, while CP went the opposite route.
Fatigue management was also written on picket signs. Daley admitted he made a great wage, but said it came at the cost of family life. CP workers can’t make any commitments because they never know when they’ll be around.
“If we working, I wouldn’t know what time I would be coming home,” he said. “We’re working unbelievably strange hours and they want us to work longer.”
The union is looking for more regular hours and the ability to schedule more days off, both Starling and Daley said.
“Once in a while you need 48 hours off to reset your clock,” said Starling. “If you have a mishap because somebody’s fatigued, it will cost you.”
Back-to-work legislation is expected to be tabled in the House of Commons when MPs return on Monday morning. The Ministry of Labour estimates the strike will cost the Canadian economy more than $500 million each week.
“The carrot has always been the wages and the pensions,” said Starling. “It will make it hard to keep the younger guys around without pensions in place.”