Thursday, August 11, 2011


Sympathetic picket line at the railway station, eh?

BC Mary comment: This isn't BC Rail ... but it should be, and in a kinder, gentler world, it would be. Rocky Mountain arose out of the same circumstances as undid BC Rail. My view. 

In that light, the following report is very informative ... 

Sympathetic picket line greets Rocky Mountaineer Railtour tourists

Locked out Rocky Mountaineer workers rallied with supporters as the train rolled into Kamloops Wednesday night.

By Mike Youds
Daily News Staff Reporter - August 10, 2011

Rocky Mountaineer Railtour passengers took in a sight Wednesday night that wasn't on the Kamloops itinerary — a clutch of demonstrators, some with children in arms, holding placards high to protest a two-month lockout.

Despite a looming thunderstorm, about 30 people joined a half dozen workers at the Lorne Street train station to form a sympathetic picket line as the train arrived an hour behind schedule.

More than 100 onboard attendants have been off the job since July 23, when the company served lockout notice and brought in replacement workers. That pre-empted an earlier strike notice from Teamsters Local 31.

While hiring replacement workers is illegal in B.C., the railway is federally regulated, amounting to a loophole.

"It's offensive to us all in a sense, right under the noses of workers who invested a great deal in the rail service," said Don Wilson, one of several public-school teachers who turned out.

Jackie Hannington, a tourist from England, said she cancelled her plans to take the scenic rail tour when she learned of the company's action. She wore a placard declaring, "I won't be served by scab labour."

Passengers gazed out their windows at the picket line as they prepared to disembark onto waiting coaches. It wasn't the first picket line in Kamloops and they have been steady in Vancouver.

"The right to strike and the right of the employer to lock out are part of the collective bargaining system, but certainly it's better to negotiate an agreement," said Garry Worth, a retired union member. "I hope they're not trying to bust the union. And I think Kamloops workers should stand up and be counted."

Five of the locked out attendants drove from Vancouver to join the picket but none of them would agree to be interviewed. They were being videotaped by hired security staff, who monitored every move the protesters made, even when they sought shelter from the rain under the Red Bridge.

One of the workers said they have already been subject to letters of discipline for speaking out and taking part in peaceful pickets.

The attendants are former Canadian Auto Workers members who joined the Teamsters Union earlier this year and were without a collective agreement after their previous contract expired in February.

Rod Blackburn, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 31, said from Vancouver that the company has not returned to bargaining.

"They keep saying they're trying to negotiate but they have talked to us for a month," Blackburn said. Meanwhile the union has been served with a series of injunctions, one of which goes before the Supreme Court of British Columbia Thursday.

Vancouver City Council and B.C. Federation of Labour have asked the company to bargain in good faith. MLA Shane Simpson sent a letter to Premier Christy Clark urging her to raise the dispute with company management.

Tom Friedman, New Democrat nominee in Kamloops-South Kamloops, said it appears only a decline in quality of service and turnover among replacement workers might bring the company back to the table.

"We think it's a shame because Kamloops relies on the tourism industry. Will the tourists return when they have experienced this?"

The provincial government has a role to play in bringing the two sides together, he added.

"Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do something," said Kathy Kendall, Friedman's counterpart in Kamloops-North Thompson. "And in the long term, it could hurt tourism. It's a hard time for unions right now and I think we should stand up and support them."


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