© Times-Herald photo by Joel van der Veen
Two young CP Rail employees head east on Manitoba Street after finishing their shift on the picket line around 10 a.m. Friday, while two other workers continue their strike.
By Joel van der Veen
When you hear about railroad workers going on strike, Colin Haight might not match the image that immediately comes to mind.
The sturdy 21-year-old — currently sporting multiple facial piercings, a bushy beard and arm tattoos reading “HONOR” and “RESPECT” — joined Canadian Pacific Rail just a year and a half ago as a conductor.
On Friday morning, he was out on the picket line with his long-serving colleagues, all making their voices heard.
It was the third day of the national strike being undertaken by members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), protesting CP’s policies on pensions, benefits, and other issues.
While negotiations between the union and their employer seemed to be moving slowly, the strikers were pleased with the sunny weather, a grand improvement from the rain on Wednesday and Thursday.
“I’m glad it’s not raining anymore,” Haight said, recalling his first shift on the picket line, a five-hour block on Wednesday morning, which he described as “miserable.”
For him and others, their pensions are a major area of concern. Haight said it was the main attraction when he joined CP and would be his ultimate prize after years of long hours.
“Our pension is like our reward at the end of it all,” said Dave Kessler, a 27-year-old conductor who was on the line with his fiancée and co-worker, Emily Boudreau.
Like Kessler, he said, the pension provided much of the appeal for joining CP, so that “when we were 55 years old, we were set up.”
Bill Heath, president of TCRC Local 510, said the warm day had buoyed the spirits of the 30 to 40 workers picketing near the three main access points to the CP rail yard in downtown Moose Jaw.
“Everybody’s upbeat,” he said, adding that they were following the negotiations as closely as possible. “As far as we know, there’ve been no breakthroughs.”
The union members have maintained a continuous strike since Wednesday morning, working in shifts.
Kevin Hrysak, a spokesperson for CP Rail, said that negotiations continued Friday.
“Both sides are still continuing to talk and meet today and negotiate,” he said in a phone interview. “We’re hoping to come to a collective agreement suitable for both parties as soon as possible.”
For more information, see Saturday's edition of the Times-Herald.