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Canadian Pacific: TSB ‘misguided’ comments do little to enhance railway safety

Canadian Pacific: TSB ‘misguided’ comments do little to enhance railway safety

Transportation Safety Board’s (TSB) misguided comments on the topic of fatigue in the railway industry do little to enhance industry safety or improve the quality of life for conductors and engineers

Canadian Pacific is disappointed in the Transportation Safety Board’s (TSB) misguided comments on the topic of fatigue in the railway industry, which do little to enhance industry safety or improve the quality of life for conductors and engineers.

While CP welcomes the focus on safety and looks forward to working collaboratively with all stakeholders to improve rail safety, these discussions must be fact based. TSB Chairwoman Kathy Fox noted in an October 31 media conference that 6 percent of human-caused rail incidents may have involved fatigue – a statement not supported by facts.

“We would welcome the chance to meet with the Chairwoman and Transport Canada to provide the context and detail necessary to dispel any misconceptions that continue to distort conversations over this crucial issue, and to lend our support in implementing important change,” said CP President and Chief Operating Officer Keith Creel. “It is well past time we moved the discussion of work, rest and time-off choices for locomotive engineers and conductors beyond emotional and deceptive rhetoric into the arena of fact. CP will, at any time, discuss the facts around work and rest with the TSB, Transport Canada and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) leadership and we are happy to do so in a public forum.”

Contrary to claims by the TCRC and others, CP has fought hard to put the issue of predictable scheduling and better work/life balance for locomotive engineers and conductors on the negotiation table, but has been thwarted at every turn. CP continues to take a leadership position in moving employees to a new, better scheduling model, including requesting regulatory change from Transport Canada to move away from the current and outdated regulation that allows engineers and conductors, at their discretion, to work up to 18 hours within a 24 hour period.

“This is an issue of choice: choice for our engineers and conductors; choice for their union leadership; and choice for Transport Canada, who can help bring about meaningful change for the benefit of public safety and hardworking railroaders,” Creel said. “It is easy for both the TSB and TCRC to highlight problems, but we remain focussed on meaningful solutions and meaningful change.”

The fact is Canada’s rail industry operates in a highly regulated environment in which CP must comply with the Railway Safety Act and the regulations, safety rules and the oversight of Transport Canada inspectors. Railroads must also operate within the parameters of collective labour agreements.

During labour negotiations with the TCRC, CP sought predictable work and mandatory time-off schedules for train crews. This proposal was rejected by the union, who demanded optional time-off schedules again at the individual employees’ discretion, and then led employees to a strike in 2015. In 2015, 93 percent of CP’s train crews worked fewer than 10 hours; the majority worked fewer than eight hours.

In 2015, forty percent of the time train crews elected not to take the maximum time off available to them between trips. There are at least 12 ways an employee can elect to take time off from work. To name a few, train crews can take 24 hours off at their home terminal after every round trip, take Earned Days Off, book personal leave and book up to 48-hours rest after specified mileages are attained. If employees are fatigued they can report themselves as unfit prior to taking a call for work.

CP is so committed to ensuring our conductors and engineers get the rest they need that the company recently went to arbitration as a result of our implementing mandatory rest after each run.

Since the beginning of this year CP has been asking the TCRC to meet on the topic of employing a better, more predictable schedule.

CP has also been a vocal proponent of on-board voice and video technology, which can help identify and address behaviours that indicate fatigue, but there are regulatory and legal barriers within the TSB Act that prohibit proactive use of the data for safety purposes. Studies have been done, but no change has been made to the regulatory framework. Both the TCRC and TSB could be instrumental in pushing this safety-enhancing technology forward.

“It is time to move beyond rhetoric and focus on solutions,” Creel said. “We are optimistic the union’s support of the TSB announcement is indicative of a willingness to negotiate more scheduling predictability and improving safety technology for our employees and the public. We look forward to sitting down with them at their earliest convenience. We are prepared to open discussions immediately.”

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