Canadian Pacific, Teamsters conflict over layoffs

Union cites potential safety issues, railway defends actions

Canadian Pacific, Teamsters conflict over layoffs
Greg Huszar Photography via K+S Potash Canada/Handout via Reuters

The layoff of maintenance-of-way crews by Canadian Pacific (CP) does not bode well for the Canadian railway system in the event of a major disaster, according to the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference-Maintenance of Way Employees Division.

As a result, Transport Canada must intervene and apply the Railway Safety Management System Regulations, 2015, said the union.

CP refuses to undertake a risk assessment, said the Teamsters, even though it has the obligation to do so pursuant to the regulations and despite the layoffs or the abolition of about 500 employee positions.

"CP is in clear violation of the law and Transport Canada has all the tools it needs to order the reinstatement of these workers," said Gary Doherty, president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference-Maintenance of Way Employees Division. "Not only is CP abolishing these key positions, but it is also increasing the speed at which its trains will cross certain cities."

However, the Teamsters’ claims are “incorrect, misleading and inflammatory,” said CP, adding “CP 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.

CP must adjust staffing levels according to business ebbs and flows associated with global markets and operational efficiency gains. The layoffs affect 260 current maintenance-of-way positions and 240 vacant positions.”

The layoffs will not impact CP's commitment to safety, said CP.

“The frequency of both visual inspections and ultrasonic rail flaw detection remains unchanged. CP will continue to meet or exceed all regulatory requirements for track inspection and maintenance as set out in the Track Safety Rules.”

Since the staffing level changes pose no risk to employees, the public, property or the environment, CP said it concluded a risk assessment was not required and Transport Canada  agreed with this conclusion.

“It is irresponsible of union leadership to provide misstatements to the public that subvert the facts and undermine CP's commitment to rail safety in an effort to further the union leadership's own interests,” said CP.

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