• By: Candice Vetter

Jean-Michel Hallé

ABOVE: Teamster Jean-Michel Hallé takes a rest from union matters and recharges on the water.

Described as “up and coming” by his colleagues at Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), Jean-Michel Hallé has recently taken over the union position of General Chairman of CN Eastern Lines, which includes negotiations between union members and railways.

He followed his father into the railroad business and has worked as a trainman, conductor and engineer. “I like it. The work is not routine. There are different shift times, usually with different crews, various weather conditions, working on small trains or big trains. Every day is different.”

Now full time at the TCRC, his environment is different, but he still travels at least once a week. One thing he doesn’t miss is the sleep disruption caused by an industry that runs 24/7. That said, working around the clock has its moments too. “Sometimes you’ve been up all night, but then you see a sunrise. You’re tired but it’s good.”
His work now revolves around collective agreements, bargaining, grievances and building cases for arbitration, as well as making sure the office is running smoothly. “I try to make sure that applications and intentions of agreements are respected by the companies and by our members.”

He was involved with the new method of collective bargaining led by TCRC president Rex Beatty. Hallé says, “Hopefully at the end we’re sitting across the table and both sides are happy. We try to find solutions that are good for both parties, not just say, ‘These are our demands!’ We have to live together.”

He feels that union roles have changed, but unions are as important as ever. “With the global economy and the constant growing greed of corporations, we cannot let anyone destroy what took hundreds of years to build up.”