After weeks of “gruelling” bargaining, CN Rail is set to resume service on the Kelowna Pacific Rail track from Kamloops to Lumby.
But its namesake — the City of Kelowna — will no longer be serviced after CN determined freight traffic on that stretch was insufficient.
“I’m pleased to say that the parties were able to come together to assemble the right business and labour conditions to justify the resumption of rail traffic on the major portion of the KPR,” said Jim Vena, CN executive vice-president and chief operating officer.
KPR, which leased its network from CN in 1999, entered receivership in July 2013 and halted operations, putting 35 employees mainly from Vernon out of work.
CN will resume operations on 156 kilometres, or approximately 75 per cent, of the network KPR operated from Campbell Creek to Vernon, Lumby Junction and Lumby. The track served about 16,000 rail cars annually.
Operations between Lumby Junction and Kelowna will be discontinued, however, because of insufficient freight traffic.
The 60-day discontinuance process under the Canada Transportation Act will start soon.
This week the line was taken out of the bankruptcy process after negotiations with the receiver, the Teamsters and Tolko Industries, the main customer on the line.
“It has been difficult and stressful no question about that, particularly for our members and the predicament they were in regarding the alternative,” said Bruce Willows, Teamsters union general chairman.
“We’ve been back and forth negotiating terms and conditions. It was quite gruelling but we’re now satisfied.”
The deal must still be ratified by union members.
The company has agreed to a five-year deal that will see workers receive a 15-per-cent wage increase over the life of the contract.
It says 20 employees will return to work on Monday, and more jobs could be on the horizon.
The bankruptcy also halted rail service to Moly-Cop, causing enormous extra cost for the Kamloops industrial firm.
CN resumed its service to the plant in August. But a permanent contract had not been established, leaving company representatives feeling uneasy.
This week’s agreement resolves a uniquely complicated quandary for the union, said Willows.
“Our group has never faced this kind of a predicament and I’ll be quite happy if it doesn’t arise again.”