By Sally MacDonald, Black Press
A labour dispute between Canadian Pacific Rail and its running trades employees’ union Teamsters Canada over the cancellation of local agreements has been settled in favour of the union.
“It’s going to mean some more normalcy for the members,” said Les Daley, the union chairman for the local engineers, when asked about the decision.
On Friday, March 22, the Canada Industrial Relations Board filed a cease and desist order against CP Rail with the federal court of Canada, ordering the company to reinstate local agreements.
Running trades employees include locomotive engineers, conductors, trainmen and yardmen.
After CP Rail gave notice that it would be canceling local agreements for these employees in all of its service areas last September, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference filed initial charges with the Canada Industrial Relations Board in October.
The board held a hearing in Ottawa in October and on December 19 the board found that CP Rail had violated the Canada Labour Code in cancelling the local agreements and directed CP Rail to reinstate the local agreements.
However, according to a statement by Teamsters, CP Rail continued to issue notice about the cancellation of agreements. On January 23 this year, Teamsters asked the Canada Industrial Relations Board to file its December order with the federal court so that if CPR did not reinstate the local agreements, the order could be enforced.
At a hearing in Ottawa on March 18, CP Rail told the board that cancellation of local rules was necessary so the company could implement standardized calling rules in their place. The company argued that the net result of its action would be to modify rather than cancel the existing calling rules.
However, on Friday, March 22, the board came back with the decision that it would file the cease and desist order against CP Rail cancelling local agreements with the federal court. That was done the same day.
In Friday’s decision, the board stated:
“The employer simply adopted an interpretation of the order that suited its own purposes, and issued new notices of cancellation affecting virtually every local rule in every terminal in the CP Rail system.
“The Board was very deliberate in its drafting of (the order), and it did intend the order to indefinitely prohibit the employer from unilaterally cancelling and replacing the local rules on a system-wide basis.
“Accordingly, the board has no difficulty in finding that the employer has failed to comply with (the order), and that given the employer’s past conduct, there is every likelihood that it will continue to fail to comply with the order in the future,” reads the board’s reasons for the decision.
“CP Rail’s wholesale cancellation of local rules … for the purpose of replacing them with managerial directives, is clearly not conducive to constructive labour relations. By its actions, the employer has made it virtually impossible for the labour-relations system to work as it should.”
The Teamsters union is pleased that the board supported its stance, said Dave Able, General Chairman, LE West.
“The board ruled in our favour — rightfully so, as far as we’re concerned — that the company had no right to do what they did on such a wholesale change. It’s undermining our representation of our members. It’s hurting our membership in their way of life. It’s hurting our members’ working conditions,” said Able.
“We felt we had a strong case. We feel the company is being arbitary and not negotiating with us about this and that really should have been done. We probably could have avoided a lot of the conflict if the company would have sat down and talked to us.”
Daley said the loss of local rules was upsetting to the local members and made it difficult for workers to know when they would be called in.
“Revelstoke has always been recognized as one of the harder places to work,” he said. “Because of the hardships out here, we negotiated in the past additional rest we could take at home above the collective agreement, a fatigue management thing, but of course that disappeared along with our local rules. That was one of the things that was upsetting to our local member.”
CP Rail said it would abide by the board’s decision. On Tuesday, Mar. 26, CP Rail issued a notice to the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference that local agreements will be phased back in, with most being in place by Monday, April 1.
“The Company recognizes the decision from the CIRB respecting the cancellation of local rules issued in March 22, 2013,” wrote Dave Freeborn, director of labour relations, in the letter. “Accordingly, the Company is currently making arrangements to reinstate the local rules at the various terminals.”
With files from Alex Cooper/Revelstoke Times Review