Strike warned at Via Rail after attempted agreement reached with union

A strike that threatened to suspend passenger rail services across Canada was warned early Tuesday after Unifor and Via Rail reached a tentative agreement, according to the union and rail operator.

Unifor, which represents 2,400 Via Rail employees, said the tentative agreement was reached just hours before members were prepared to strike.

Instead, both the union and Via said service will operate normally, pending ratification of the agreement.

No details disclosed

Unifor’s lead negotiator, Scott Doherty, would not discuss details of the agreement.

Unifor initially issued a 72-hour strike notice to the national rail carrier on Friday, indicating employees were prepared to walk off the job if a new contract could not be negotiated by 12:01 am on Monday.

The union extended that deadline to later Monday and both sides continued talking, pushing past two strike deadlines. The final deadline was set for 11.59 pm ET.

“It’s been a difficult round of bargaining,” Doherty said. “But both Via and us rolled up our sleeves and found a way to get things done.”

A strike would have seen maintenance workers, on-board service personnel, chefs, sales agents and customer service staff all hit the picket line and force Via to pause services across the country.

In a statement, Via apologized if the threatened labor action disrupted travel plans for passengers.

“We sympathize with the passengers and communities whose plans have been impacted in the past couple of days due to the uncertainty caused by this potential strike,” Martin R. Landry, Via’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

Unifor said job security was the main issue on the table during labor negotiations.

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