About 3,200 Canadian National Railway conductors, trainpersons and yard workers are on strike after the union and company failed to reach a deal by the midnight ET deadline.
The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, the union representing the employees, gave the required 72-hour strike notice last weekend.
Union spokesperson Christopher Monette says they are still in talks with CN in hopes of reaching a negotiated settlement and ending the labour dispute as soon as possible.
The union has said passenger rail services in the country’s three biggest cities would not be affected by the strike.
It represents workers at commuter rail services including Go Transit in Toronto, Exo in Montreal and the West Coast Express in Vancouver, where passengers would remain unaffected.
The workers, who have been without a contract since July 23, say they’re concerned about long hours, fatigue and what they consider dangerous working conditions.
“We have members out there who are operating trains when they should in fact be resting,” Monette told CBC News after the strike began.
The dispute comes as CN confirmed Friday that it was cutting jobs across the railway as it deals with a weakening North American economy that has eroded demand.
“We are disappointed that the TCRC has initiated strike action which will result in a significant disruption to service,” Janet Drysdale, CN’s vice president of financial planning, said at the Scotiabank Transportation and Industrials Conference on Tuesday.
“We apologize to our customers, but we do appreciate their understanding that safety is always our first priority. Negotiations are expected to continue later today, under the watchful eye of federal mediators.”