VIA Rail strike averted as 2 sides reach tentative deal

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Rail travellers in Canada won’t have to make alternate travel arrangements for Monday after all. Via Rail and the union representing roughly 1,800 of its workers narrowly avoided a strike at the eleventh hour that would have led to service interruptions across the country.

In a statement posted on its website Sunday night, Via Rail announced it had reached a tentative agreement with the workers’ union.

“Via Rail Canada is pleased to announce that it has reached an agreement with Unifor, the union representing the large portion of Via Rail’s employees who work in stations, customer centres, maintenance centres, on board trains as well as administrative personnel,” the Montreal-based passenger rail service wrote.

The agreement covers Unifor National Council 4000 and Unifor Local 100 members, representing 1,968 VIA customer service, on-board service and maintenance staff.

Union members across the country will vote on the accord over the next three weeks, and the Unifor statement says no details of the tentative agreement will be released before then.

Fearing a potential strike, Via had encouraged travellers to modify their plans if they “absolutely [needed] to travel” earlier in the day on Sunday.

“We realize that many customers adjusted their travel plans due to the potential strike, and we apologize for any inconvenience,” Via said.

Prior to the agreement being reached, Via said it would provide refunds or future credit to travellers who decided to make alternate travel arrangements.

Unifor notified Via on Friday that it had 72 hours to come to an agreement or risk a workers’ strike. The agreement was reached shortly before the midnight deadline Sunday.

The Vancouver-Toronto train scheduled to depart Sunday night from B.C. would have been cut short in Winnipeg, Via said before the agreement had been reached. An overnight train from Winnipeg to Churchill, Man., also would have been kept from proceeding passed The Pas, Man., were the strike to go ahead.

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