Rocky Mountaineer reaches deal with locked-out workers

MORE than 100 unionized employees of the Rocky Mountaineer rail tour company whove been on the picket lines for over a year may soon be back on the job.

Members of the Teamsters local 31, which represents the on-board attendants for the tourist train, voted to accept an agreement with the company over the weekend.

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So far, theres no word as to whats contained in the three-year deal.

Some media have reported it includes a 10 per cent wage rollback and a requirement to share gratuities with managers.

A spokesman for the Rocky Mountaineer, Ian Robertson, described it in a press statement as fair and appropriate for the current economic climate.

The 108 unionized attendants who were locked out following a strike vote 14 months ago were presented with the deal and voted on it over the weekend.

Union members rejected a previous offer made in the early days of the dispute.

The protracted labour dispute which saw pickets up at the companys North Vancouver station as well as downtown as particularly bitter because of the railtour companys use of replacement workers during the lock out. While that practice is usually illegal in British Columbia, the company is federally regulated, and under those regulations, replacement workers are allowed. The bitterness escalated to the point that the union and railtour company clashed in court over an injunction preventing picketers from harassing passengers and replacement workers.

Company representatives described picketers yelling "scabs at startled passengers and following replacement workers. Picketers, meanwhile, said the replacements had given them the finger and had made gestures such as kissing their hands and slapping their buttocks, according to court documents.

Earlier this summer, a B.C. Supreme Court Justice ordered the union to pay $25,000 for disobeying the court injunction.

Last year, the B.C. Federation of Labour and a number of Vancouver city councillors urged railtour founder and executive chairman Peter Armstrong to stop using the replacement workers.

David Van Hove, an attendant who has worked for the Rocky Mountaineer for 12 years and has been on the picket line for the last year, said prior to the vote this weekend, the lock out has been incredibly hard.

The rail company had hired security guards to keep picketers away and had even had bagpipers play to drown them out, he said.

You have no idea, he said. None of us want to be on the picket line any longer.

Van Hove said union members have been putting in about 25 hours on the picket lines each week and have been receiving strike pay, but adds, Its barely enough to keep your head above water.

Most of the locked-out employees have had to take other part-time jobs to survive, he said.

Wages and overtime pay have been major issues in the dispute.

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