International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers sells out Canadian National Railway signal and communications strike, accepts binding arbitration


Are you a railroader at CN or another company? Contact the CP Workers Rank-and-File Committee at cpworkersrfc@gmail.com to let us know what you think of the IBEW’s decision to sabotage the CN signal and communication workers’ struggle.

The two-week strike by 750 signal and communication workers at Canadian National (CN) Railways was unceremoniously sabotaged by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) this week.

CN Rail signal and communications workers on the picket line last month in British Columbia [Photo by Robin Nedila/IBEW]

The union forced workers to return to work on Wednesday, July 6, without giving them any say in its decision—announced by CN Rail management Monday—to have all the outstanding issues in the workers’ contract dispute through anti-democratic, pro- corporate binding arbitration.

In recent months, binding arbitration has become the weapon of choice wielded by the Canadian ruling class, determined to make workers pay for the economic crisis and spiraling cost of living brought on by its disastrous response to the pandemic and the escalating US-instigated war against Russia in Ukraine. In addition to wages, the arbitrator will decide, among other things, on the company’s demand for further concessions in the form of a lifetime cap on some health benefits.

The IBEW’s betrayal was so craven that it left it to the company to announce the arbitration deal, not even bothering to initially issue a public statement on the matter. IBEW spokesman Steve Martin gave an interview to Global News in which he confirmed that the decision to scuttle the strike was “a collective decision by the negotiating committee.”

The arbitrator will either be a federal Labor Department official or a “labour relations specialist” decided by mutual agreement between the union and company, or failing that, the government. In any event, he or she will be committed to the subordination of workers’ interests to big business profit and investor returns.

A large of the striking workers are on-call employees who are percentage in the aftermath of critical events that affect railway operations, such as fires, floods and derailments involving dangerous chemicals. They have been demanding wages in line with other railway trades, compensation for travel time and time worked, two-day weekends and a better work-life balance.

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