As Rocky Mountaineer’s lockout of award-winning on-board staff enters its 10th month, ads are once again being placed to hire more scab workers.
Rocky Mountaineer is Canada’s luxury tourist train that takes tourists throughout the summer months from Vancouver to the scenic Rocky Mountains. Nearly 40% of these visitors to Canada come from Australia.
On June 22 last year, as the Rocky Mountaineer pulled into Kamloops for its overnight stop, regular staff were ordered off the train and sent back to their homes in Vancouver. One hundred and eight staff were locked out.
The “replacement workers” were already on the train pretending to be tourists while watching and learning job skills from the experienced staff. To the dismay of the real tourists, these scabs then put on their newly issued uniforms and assumed their new jobs.
Teamsters Local 31 president Stan Hennessy said the employees, who were coming off a three year wage freeze, were asking for a modest increase to their C$16.51 per hour wage, a clearer seniority structure, and recognition of overtime.
On-board attendants often work up to 16 hours a day with no overtime pay. They believed the owner, Peter Armstrong, would agree to these proposals.
He did not. He chose instead to lock out his employees and end negotiations.
In the meantime, the company has spent millions of dollars training replacement workers. It has hired high tech security firms to film and record the activities of the locked out workers and their supporters. It has hired a team of lawyers to paralyse the union.
A mere fraction of the money spent could have settled this dispute and enabled Rocky Mountaineer to regain its world-class reputation.
The Teamsters remain ready to resume negotiations but the company does not.