With the Canadian National Railway Co. strike taking place across the country, local workers are standing up as well to voice their concerns.
At the intersection of Hwy 16 and Kalum Street, approximately 35 CN Rail workers from the Terrace area have been taking shifts since Monday night to publicly express their concerns regarding long hours and fatigue leading to dangerous work conditions.
“It’s something that been a huge concern ever since the railway started and now it’s just becoming more and more of a concern,” says Matt Ridler, a conductor at CN Rail and the local chairman for Division 151 of the Teamsters Canada union. “It is absolutely one hundred percent for safety, the company wants us to work more and rest less.”
About 3,200 conductors, trainspersons and yard workers have walked off the job throughout Canada after negotiations on a new contract with CN Rail were unsuccessful this past week. Workers have been without a contract since July 23.
The dispute comes as CN Rail confirmed last week they were cutting jobs across the railway due to a weakening North American economy that has eroded demand.
For most workers, it’s difficult to make any plans or even relax during their personal lives as they’re generally on-call and their shifts tend to extend longer than expected, he says. Oftentimes, they don’t have enough hours between work to be properly rested for the next day which can become a huge safety concern for the public if someone falls asleep or is too tired to make a sound decision.
Already, national news outlets have announced the strike has negatively impacted numerous industry groups both nationally and globally, including mining, produce and lumber. Ridler says there are many businesses in the area that will also feel the hurt if CN Rail doesn’t make amendments soon.
“It’s going to hurt the community because some of the local businesses depend on the stuff that we do, like we provide fuel and deliver it over the Northwest and that’s not getting done,” he explains. “Kalum Rock Quarry depends on us… and Rio Tinto doesn’t get any cars delivered.”
Passenger rail services have not been affected.
The strikers take turns warming up at a fire by the train yard entrance nearby. Ridler says this is his first time taking part in a strike and was surprised how supportive the community has been these past few days.
“It’s actually amazing to see… people are honking and buying us coffee, just totally supportive and coming to talk to us about the cause about what’s been going on,” he says.
“They want the public to look at us and be like we’re greedy but that’s not it. We’re doing this for our safety and yours… It’s about quality of life and that to me is a lot more important than making money.”