VIA Rail announces temporary employee suspensions

A VIA Rail train passes through the blockade at the Wyman Road rail crossing near Tyendinaga on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, the first day of the demonstrations there in solidarity with the people of Wet’suwet’en. Photo by Cris Vilela.

VIA Rail has announced the continuation of the cancellation of its services on a large part of the CN Rail network, and with it, temporary employee suspensions.

In a press release at approximately 1:05 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, VIA said that, until CN Rail opens the remaining tracks for service, it has no choice but to continue with the cancellation of its services, with the exception of the Sudbury-White River (CP Rail) and Churchill-The Pas (Hudson Bay Railway) lines.

“It is with sincere regret that we must proceed with temporary employee suspensions. Starting today, close to 1000 VIA Rail employees will receive a notice regarding this matter. The terms of the collective agreements will be respected with regards to the notices given to unionized employees,” VIA said in the release.

Blockades were set up on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020 at the Wyman Road rail crossing just outside Tyendinaga Territory near Shannonville. Those demonstrating at the blockade indicate they are doing so in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en territory, where the RCMP moved in on the pipeline opposition camp that same day. Since then, blockades have been set up across the country, and demonstrations have taken place in many Canadian cities. While many of the blockades have since been removed, the blockade near Tyendinaga has remained in place for nearly two weeks now. All of this activity prompted CN to announce shutdowns of its services, followed by the complete shutdown of VIA Rail services on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020.

“This general interruption is an unprecedented situation in our history. In 42 yearsof existence, it is the first time that VIA Rail, a public intercity passenger rail service, has to interrupt most of its services across the country,” said Cynthia

Garneau, President and Chief Executive Officer. “Since the beginning of the crisis, we have been closely working with the infrastructure owner in order to formulate a progressive, safe and orderly resumption plan. We have done everything to mitigate the impact on our employees and our passengers. At this point, we believe we have made the fairest and most reasonable decision with the proposed temporary suspension plan. I would like to thank all our union partners for their collaboration and comprehension.”

VIA said that it hopes that all of its services will resume as soon as possible, and that it will be able to welcome back its employees and passengers quickly.

“The Corporation hopes for a decisive resolution between the various parties. It commends the ongoing dialogue efforts,” VIA Rail said.

Kingstonist will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates as more information becomes available.

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