file photo of the Via Rail train station in Windsor. (Photo by Jason Viau) file photo of the Via Rail train station in Windsor. (Photo by Jason Viau)

Strike looms at VIA Rail as unionized workers overwhelmingly approve strike mandate

If you plan on taking the train anywhere next week, you might want to make a backup plan.

About 2,000 VIA Rail employees have given their union a strong strike mandate should contract talks fail to produce an agreement before the deadline at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, July 11.

Unifor Council 4000 members voted 99.3 per cent in favour of the strike mandate, while 99.4 per cent of Unifor Local 100 workers gave it their blessing.

The vote was between June 20 and July 1 across Canada.

"The strike vote sends a clear message to the employer. The membership supports the bargaining committee, is firm on their demands, and is prepared to take action if needed," said Scott Doherty, Executive Assistant to Unifor's National President and lead negotiator.

The union represents maintenance workers, on-board service personnel, chefs, sales agents, and customer service staff.

The bargaining committee said it is willing to meet with officials with VIA Rail right up to the strike deadline.

The union says VIA wants to remove the Supplement Agreement for Unifor Council 4000 and Unifor Local 100 members. The union said that would result in the loss of job security. It also said the employer wants language weakening the layoff section of the collective agreement.

VIA Rail did not say how the strike might impact service, but said it, "remains committed to holding these negotiations in good faith in an effort to reach a new agreement before the deadline so that we can avoid any disruption of service."

It said talks continue with the assistance of a conciliator.

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