The B.C. Federation of Labour and several Vancouver city councillors have urged luxury train-service provider Rocky Mountaineer to stop using replacement workers, an act that's illegal under provincial law but permissible under the federal statute that governs interprovincial railways.
Rocky Mountaineer, which provides world-renowned travel through B.C. and Alberta, locked out its 108 onboard attendants on June 22. Teamsters Local 31 says its members have been asked to make major concessions, despite the fact they haven't received a wage increase in several years. The company said its main issues are around scheduling and overtime.
Tuesday, a few dozen union members carrying signs that included "We want to work" and "Scab labour is hurting my family" rallied outside City Hall. They were joined by B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair, who called on the company to return to the bargaining table. No talks are scheduled.
Mr. Sinclair said the attendants have played a key role in building Rocky Mountaineer since its 1990 inception, and fill-in workers can't provide the same high level of service.
Mr. Sinclair also unveiled a letter signed by nine Vancouver councillors that was sent to Rocky Mountaineer executive chairman and founder Peter Armstrong.
"Your firm has not only locked out these loyal employees but immediately replaced them with strikebreakers, an act that would be illegal under provincial law. We do not believe we can build the tourism industry with a strategy that treats customer service reps as little more than disposable people, to be used and discarded," the letter said.
Among the councillors to sign were Geoff Meggs, George Chow and Ellen Woodsworth, each of whom appeared at Tuesday's rally.
Mr. Armstrong is chair of the fundraising campaign for the Non-Partisan Association, which opposes Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson's Vision Vancouver party. Suzanne Anton, the lone NPA councillor and mayoral candidate in the fall election, did not sign the letter.
Ian Robertson, a Rocky Mountaineer spokesman, said the company is disappointed the strike has been turned into a political issue. He said Mr. Armstrong's involvement with the NPA is a separate matter.
Mr. Robertson said the company is within its rights to bring in replacement workers and is not – as the union suggested – exploiting a loophole.
"We are federally regulated and, from a legal position, quite well within the federal regulations to continue to operate."
He said the workers' contract expired in January and the company has met with union officials at least six times since then. He said Rocky Mountaineer's latest offer was rejected by the union, though he declined to discuss specifics.
Mr. Robertson asserted he's confident that Rocky Mountaineer's customers are receiving the same level of service during the lockout that they always have.