updated 1/22/2011 12:38:26 PM ET 2011-01-22T17:38:26

A union representing nearly 4,000 employees of the Canadian National Railway Co., operator of one of North America's biggest railroads, plans to strike beginning Tuesday if it can't agree on a new labor contract with management.

The company said Saturday that the Canadian Auto Workers union gave notice that its members will strike without a new deal. The two sides have been bargaining since September. The previous contract expired Dec. 31.

Mark Hallman, CN's director of communications, said contract talks are continuing in Montreal, and the railway remains hopeful a settlement will be reached before the strike deadline.

However, if there is a walkout, he said the company has contingency plans to have management personnel step in to keep the railroad operating "safely and as efficiently as possible" in case of a strike.

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