Our biggest problems are, number one, deregulation of the rail industry, and number two, the mandate of Transport Canada.
Deregulation has been going on since the mid-'80s, the idea being
that the railways write the rules, and the railways can have their own
police forces investigate accidents or incidents in situations where
the actions of the railways themselves may be the cause. The whole
system is rigged in their favour.
The problem with Transport Canada is that their mandate has been the
protection of the economic viability of the railways, not safety. Their
focus on safety is a distant second.
a day and age when railways are making record profits, the focus is
still on economic viability. For example, Transport Canada approved the
Duty and Rest Period Rules a few months ago. The process that led to
those rules is the following: The railways were ordered by the Minister
of Transport to draft a new set of work/rest rules. They
were given a list of subjects that they were to address. They made a
draft set of rules. We commented on it, and then Transport Canada had
the option of altering what had been drafted or scrapping it and going
with something else. Transport Canada completely ignored what we
submitted. The railways had drafted their wish list of what they
wanted and Transport Canada fully adopted the railways' rules.
We had hired a sleep and fatigue expert to help us with our
submissions and we actually made multiple submissions on those rules.
Basing ourselves on science about fatigue, we are trying to reduce the
hours that our members can be forced to work. The companies proposed
something that is a bare minimum in terms of the safety of our
members. For example, we addressed rest facilities in our submissions
but the companies do not want any standard. They do not want any type
of reduction in the hours of work. In fact, they are trying to increase
the hours our people can be made to work.
One of the subjects the Ministerial Order demanded the railways
address was operating hours over the night shift. Night shift is the
worst shift. We gave them multiple suggestions on reducing hours or
ways to mitigate the problems of working at night. They completely
ignored our suggestions and did not address them at all. In the rules
Transport Canada approved this issue was still not addressed. That was
one of the most obvious ones. They were not even willing to consider
curtailing the hours overnight. And yet, our members regularly
transport thousands and thousands of tons of chemicals, sulphur,
propane, etc. when they have been awake for 30 to 40 hours straight. A
our work is 'on call' so you are up all day, and then things change and
they end up needing you at midnight that night. You have not slept at
all and you have to work 12 hours.
That whole process is mandated through the Railway Safety Act. We have been fighting on workers' sleep and fatigue for decades. It is one of our biggest concerns.
Society is progressing but the workforce is being pushed backward in time.
The Railway Safety Act
and the process through which rules are adopted has to be changed. The
union must have an input, not just consultation, but an actual say, not
just opinions that can be ignored, an actual say that must be
considered. Right now, the system is rigged.
On Field Hill in BC, three of our members died in 2019. There was a
brake issue which caused the freight train to move on its own at high
speed and derail. The negligence investigation was done by CP's own
corporate police force. We can say that usually people do not assign
blame to their employer because it usually costs them their
We are circulating two petitions to bring these matters to the public and this is also one of our most pressing concerns.
Safety has to be regulated and the railways cannot be the ones to
regulate themselves. Corporate police forces and self-investigation
have to come to an end.
1. The two petitions are reproduced below.
sign and circulate widely.
This article was published in
April 27, 2021 - No. 34