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A CN rail worker and teamsters union member gathers outside CN headquarters in Montreal, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. The agreement, which is retroactive to July 23, 2019, will “provide wage increases and benefit improvements” for the workers, CN said in a statement.Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Canadian National Railway Co. workers have approved a new three-year-contract, cementing a deal that was struck in November to end the country’s largest rail strike in a decade, their union said on Friday.

Teamsters Canada said in a statement the contract was approved by 91.3 per cent of the estimated 3,200 workers including rail conductors.

The new contract “focuses primarily on safety, specifically with regards to crew fatigue and hours of work,” the union said.

The agreement, which is retroactive to July 23, 2019, will “provide wage increases and benefit improvements” for the workers, CN said in a statement.

Workers hit picket lines for eight days last year, calling for improved working conditions, including rest breaks. A tentative agreement reached between the union and CN brought them back to work in late November.

“We’ve succeeded in getting CN to adjust some of its practices in the interests of safety. But the core problem of fatigue in the rail industry can only be resolved through government regulations,” said Lyndon Isaak, president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) in a release.

“The issue of fatigue is still far from resolved.”

The strike triggered a severe propane shortage and left many Canadian exports stranded.

Canada relies on CN and rival Canadian Pacific Railway to move crops, oil, potash, coal and manufactured goods to ports and the United States. About half of Canada’s exports move by rail, according to industry data.

The mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction sectors fell 1.4 per cent in November, in part because of disruptions from the strike, Statistics Canada said on Friday.

Still, the Canadian economy grew 0.1 per cent during the month, as increases in utility use because of a cold weather snap helped to offset the effects of the strike.

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