CP, Teamsters dispute railway’s staffing obligations

Canadian Pacific Railway is refuting claims from one of its employees’ unions that the company is in “violation of the law” over layoffs of track maintenance staff.

Calgary-based CP last month announced temporary layoffs effective June 30 affecting about 500 maintenance-of-way crew positions. On Tuesday it cited “business ebbs and flows associated with global markets and operational efficiency gains” as the reasons for its decision.

The layoffs involve 260 workers and 240 vacant positions, the railway said, adding the “frequency of both visual inspections and ultrasonic rail flaw detection remains unchanged” on CP track.

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But the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) on Tuesday called on Transport Canada to “take prompt action before it is too late” and invoke the federal Railway Safety Management System Regulations to order the workers’ reinstatement.

The federal regulations, as passed last year, lay out the minimum requirements for a railway’s safety management system.

CP, the Teamsters said Tuesday, “refuses to undertake a risk assessment even though it has the obligation to do so pursuant to the Regulations.”

“CP is in clear violation of the law, and Transport Canada has all the tools it needs to order the reinstatement of these workers,” Gary Doherty, president of the TCRC Maintenance of Way Employees division, said in a release.

The union recently wrote federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau asking him to follow through on its recommendations for track safety, Doherty said.

If those recommendations aren’t met, Doherty said he would “hold the federal government directly responsible for the next derailment involving inadequate maintenance of ways.”

CP retorted Tuesday that since the layoffs “pose no risk to employees, the public, property or the environment,” a risk assessment was not required.

Transport Canada, CP said, “was notified and agreed with this conclusion.”

The company said it “has in fact been working closely with Transport Canada, meeting or exceeding all requirements, as well as all applicable requirements of the union’s collective agreement.”

However, “we believe reducing maintenance budgets that results in a reduction of qualified maintenance personnel compromises the safety of railway operations and the general public,” TCRC president Doug Finnson said in the union’s release.

CP, in its release, said it will still “meet or exceed all regulatory requirements for track inspection and maintenance as set out in (Transport Canada’s) Track Safety Rules.” — AGCanada.com Network

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