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Rocky Mountaineer locks out attendants

Railtours company brought about 180,000 people to Whistler between 2008 and 2009



Rocky Mountaineer, a railtours company that has helped bring as many as 100,000 people to Whistler in the past, has locked out its on-board attendants over a contract dispute.

Teamsters Local 31, the union working on behalf of the attendants, issued a flyer recently stating that it has reached an impasse with the company over a contract that would see the workers get more money for overtime in addition to higher wages, health and welfare benefits.

The response of the company, the union said, was to lock out the on-board attendants as of June 22 and replace them with "replacement workers."

"The issues are simple," the flyer reads. "When bargaining began we asked for overtime beginning after 11 hours (our shifts are often up to 16 hours or longer), and modest improvements to health and welfare benefits and wage increases.

"Rocky Mountaineer's response was to quietly recruit replacement workers, place them on our trains as passengers, and then lock us out and order us off the trains part way through our trip."

It's the job of an on board attendant to deliver meals and attend to guests' needs while they're travelling on the Rocky Mountaineer to destinations such as Whistler, Banff or Seattle. Tourism Whistler estimates that trains brought 110,000 people to Whistler in 2008 and 70,000 people in 2009.

The union goes on to say that the 108 on-board attendants working for Rocky Mountaineer have helped it earn accolades such as the "World's Best Rail Journey" and "The World's leading Travel Experience by Train."

Ian Robertson, Rocky Mountaineer's executive director of corporate communications, said that Rocky Mountaineer's on-board attendants have been represented since 1990 by the Canadian Auto Workers. That changed this year when the union decided to switch over to the Teamsters, a switch that coincided with their employment contract coming up for renewal.

"Since February 1, we have met numerous times and have put a total of six offers in front of the union and all have been rejected," Robertson said

The offers, Robertson said, addressed concerns around scheduling and overtime but were all rejected by the union - offers that the company thought were "very fair" and represented the economic reality of the tourism and hospitality industries.

Teamsters Local 31 President Stan Hennessy said that Rocky Mountaineer proposed a bonus system whereby on-board attendants would be paid extra money after the 12th hour of working, rather than the 11th as the union was proposing, money that would move up on a scale after the 13th, 14th and 15th hours.

He went on to say that the only negotiations that took place were two weeks after the lockout, when a federal conciliation officer contracted by the company contacted the union and said that it wished to meet.

For the full details read the Piqu e this week.



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