VIA Rail Services Cut in Preparation for Strike
VIA Canada has begun to cancel long haul trips in fear of stranding passengers across the country. The company has ensured that customers already en-route or departing before the strike deadline will reach their destination by "train or alternative means." If VIA Rail workers don't reach an agreement by noon Friday, all services will be halted indefinitely.
The railway remains in talks with Teamsters Canada Rail Conference union, which represents the 340 engineers who are threatening to strike. Negotiations are currently ongoing with a mediator in place which was sent from Ottawa in an attempt to avert a strike. I am hoping that this will resolve the situation quickly. The union has been without a contract with the Montreal-based firm since December 31, 2006.
Malcolm Andrews, a spokesperson for VIA Canada said that the company hopes to resolve problems over contract length, salary, scheduling and benefits with the union. The news comes a week after the federal government awarded VIA $300 million in economic stimulus funding. Ridership is expected to rise by 40% over the next 5 years as track and train services improve. It looks like their job is only going to get harder when there are more customers to handle in the near future. This is why I am not overly opposed to the strike.
The strike looms in the height of the Canadian tourist season, which is already severely crippled due to global economic conditions. Randy Williams of the Canadian Tourism Association said that if the strike does occur, "businesses, attractions, and accommodations" would be affected as well. I don't think the garbage in the city is necessarily helping either. In light of this, Air Canada and Greyhound have announced they will ramp up their services to handle the extra influx of travelers if need be. VIA moves 11,000 people daily and operates 500 trains over 12,500 km of track.
A full list of cancellations (and other passenger options such as refunds) for specific routes can be found in on VIA's website. Currently, all long haul trips to the west coast are cancelled.
As the strike deadline looms, many are beginning to call this the "summer of the strikers," and I think it's a reasonable moniker given the frequency at which unionized labour issues are occurring.
With the ongoing garbage strike in the city, if no agreement is reached Toronto's tourism industry will suffer this summer.
Photo by Danielle Scott.
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