Rocky Mountaineer employees are slated to vote on a new contract Saturday, potentially ending a drawn-out labour dispute.
Talks over the last eight weeks between the company and the union representing locked-out workers resulted in a tentative agreement earlier this week, Teamsters Local 31 president Stan Hennessy said on Thursday.
Mr. Hennessy would not discuss details of the agreement, saying members had yet to vote on the tentative deal.
“Pickets will come down if members ratify the agreement,” he said.
The local represents 108 workers employed as on-board attendants by the company, which runs high-end rail tours through the Rocky Mountains, with many of its customers coming from outside of Canada.
The contract between the union and the company expired on December 31, 2010. Attempts to reach a new contract failed. The union gave 72-hour strike notice on June 16, 2011. The company locked out union members on June 22 and continued to operate with non-unionized replacement workers.
Because the company – formally known as Great Canadian Railtour Ltd. – is subject to federal labour legislation, it was able to continue operating by hiring non-unionized replacement workers, a practice prohibited by B.C. labour laws.
A settlement would be a welcome boost for this year’s season, which ends in October, and give the company a head start on initiatives for next year, including adding Seattle to some trip itineraries, company spokesman Ian Robertson said on Thursday.
“It comes at a great time,” Mr. Robertson said.
Workers picketed locations near the company’s stations during the 14-month lockout. At least one customer refused to cross the workers’ picket line, forfeiting a $4,000 investment in tickets for him and his wife when the company refused to issue a refund.