AH – 62




(the “Company”)



(The “Union”)




SOLE ARBITRATOR:       J. F. W. Weatherill



There appeared on behalf of the Company:

(not listed)


And on behalf of the Union:

(not listed)



A hearing in this matter was held at Winnipeg, September 11, 1970.



This matter arises out of the failure of the parties to agree that adequate safety can be maintained with a reduced crew consist of one Yard Foreman and one Yard Helper for crews working on trackage under the jurisdiction of Yardmasters at “E”, “W” and “L” Towers at Symington Yard at St. Boniface, Manitoba and in Zone “T” at St. Boniface, Manitoba.

The material provisions of the collective agreement are contained in section 2 of article 7(B), as follows:

(a)           The Company shall notify the General Chairman and the Local Chairman of the Union in writing of its desire to meet with respect to reaching agreement on a reduced consist of one Yard Foreman and one Yard Helper for crews in any class of yard or transfer service with respect to reaching agreement of a reduced consist of one Yard Foreman and one Yard Helper for crews in any class of yard or transfer service. The time and place for the Company and Union representatives to meet shall be agreed upon within fifteen calendar days from the date of such notice and the parties shall meet within twenty-one calendar days of the date of such notice.

(b)           The meeting shall be limited to a determination of whether or not adequate safety can be maintained with the proposed crew consist reduction. If the parties do not reach agreement or if the meeting referred to herein does not take place, the Company may, by so advising the General Chairman and the Local Chairman in writing, commence a survey period of five working days for the yard operations concerned, during which Union representatives may observe such operations. The survey period shall commence not less than 10 or more than 20 calendar days from the date of the Company’s advice with respect to the survey period.

(c)           If, after completion of the survey period, the parties do not agree that adequate safety can be maintained with the proposed crew consist reduction, the Union will give specific reasons in writing why, in their opinion, adequate safety cannot be maintained, and the Company may, by so advising the General Chairman in writing, refer the dispute or any part thereof to arbitration.

(d)           Arbitration shall be conducted by a single arbitrator who shall be the person from time to time occupying the position of Arbitrator for the Canadian Railway Office of Arbitration, unless:

(1)           his appointment is revoked by either party upon thirty days’ written notice to the other, or

(2)           such arbitrator serves notice upon the parties of his intention to terminate his appointment or declines to act, or

(3)           there are disputes requiring final determination during a period in which there is no incumbent Arbitrator of the Canadian Railway Office of Arbitration.

In any of the above events the parties will within fifteen days of the notice by the Company referring the dispute to arbitration, select an arbitrator to hear the dispute. If the parties fail to agree on a suitable candidate for arbitrator, the Minister of Labour shall be requested to appoint an arbitrator within fourteen calendar days following receipt of such request.

The Arbitrator shall be limited to making a determination of whether or not adequate safety can be maintained with the proposed crew consist reduction. The arbitrator’s decision shall be rendered within 30 calendar days following his appointment and shall be final and binding on both parties.

(e)           The fees and expenses of the arbitrator shall be shared equally by the parties.

(f)            Where it has been determined by agreement or arbitration that adequate safety can be maintained with a reduced crew consist, such crews shall thereafter be considered “reducible crews” and the proposed reductions in the consist of such crews shall be made only in accordance with the conditions set forth in this article.

(g)           At a yard where there are reducible crews, an up-to-date list of such crews shall be posted and a copy supplied to the Local and General Chairmen concerned.

Generally, a yard crew is to consist of a foreman and two helpers, except where special arrangements are agreed to: article 7. A reducible crew may be established pursuant to article 7(B), above. The issue is simply whether or not adequate safety can be maintained with the proposed crew consist reduction. The maintenance of adequate safety may require some changes in the operations concerned, although it seems clear that their general character is to be preserved. At the hearing of this matter, the Company contended that the operations in question could be performed in safety with a reduced crew consist provided, in some cases, there were changes in switching methods. Such changes might reduce the efficiency of the operation, but that result is one which the Company may be prepared to accept. In the instant case, the changes suggested were not such as to alter the whole character of the operations. The question remains, therefore, whether these operations can be carried on with adequate safety by a two-man crew, having in mind the suggested changes in methods.

The request for a reduction in crew size is made with respect to crews working in three central areas of Symington Yard – at “E”, “W” and “L” Towers – and in Zone “T”, an adjoining industrial area. Crews working in the areas of “E”, “W” and “L” Towers are performing rather similar work which is often interrelated, and which may take any crew onto portions of the yard normally worked on by others. Zone “T” presents quite a different problem, and may be considered independently of the others. It is convenient to deal first with the matter of crew reduction in Zone “T”. It may be observed, however, that should a crew from one of the other areas be required to perform any work there, it would have to conform with the crew size requirements applicable in respect of work in the area in question.

The industries in Zone “T” are mainly meat packing plants and stockyards. There is an interchange yard of nine tracks, which are long and straight. There are of course many curved tracks going into the several industries, and there are buildings which often make the matter of maintaining sight lines rather difficult. There are also a number of road crossings which, whether public or private, require protection. After a study of the material before me, I am satisfied that the work in this area can be done, with safety, by a two-man crew. There are cases where sight lines on curved track are interrupted by buildings. In such cases the movement can only be made safely by a limited number of cars. Such limitation seems quite practicable in an area of this sort. On this aspect of the case, then, it is my conclusion that the work performed in Zone “T” can be performed by a reduced crew with maintenance of adequate safety.

A humping operation is performed at the eastern end of Symington Yard, where cars are put over the hump and automatically controlled into the proper classification of track. The local classification yard is to the west of the hump. Beyond it, cars proceed to “L” Local Yard, and to the shops. Movements in this area are supervised from the “L” Tower. On the north of the local classification yard is the west classification yard, and to the north of that are the west departure yard and west receiving yard, from which movements to east and west may be made by by-passing the hump. At the west end of these yards is “W” Tower, from which movements in that area are supervised. There is a corresponding series of “East” yards to the south of the local classification yard, and at the west end of these is “E” Tower, from which movements are supervised.

The parties have already agreed that crews working in the hump area are reducible. This agreement is set out in documents dated August 2, 1968, and March 3, 1969, and the area covered by those agreements includes pull back tracks, hump tracks, all receiving and departure tracks excluding switching from the west end, local yard and car repair yard when doubled and/or pulled from the east end for humping purposes, and “A” Yard when doubled or pulled from the east end for humping purposes. There is thus a substantial portion of the Symington Yard in which it is agreed that a two-man crew can operate safely, at least in carrying out certain operations.

The Union put forward a number of reasons why, in its opinion, adequate safety could not be maintained if reduced crews were permitted in the areas now in question. These reasons were somewhat general in nature, and will be dealt with subsequently. Examples of certain particular switching situations were given in support of these reasons, and these will be individually considered. These were given by reference to a series of maps provided by the Union, and will be dealt with on that basis.

MAP 1:          The situation described here was one of difficulties in maintaining sight lines when cars are shoved to the east end of the west departure yard tracks, particularly when the adjacent track is occupied. It would appear that this operation could be performed with maintenance of sight lines by using the long straight portion of the departure tracks for the move. Further, moves on this track may already be made by crews operating from the east, as it is within the hump area above referred to. Similar considerations apply with respect to the east end of the Eastbound Departure Tracks

MAP 2:          This dealt with the difficulty of maintaining sight lines when cars are doubled from the West Classification tracks to the West Departure tracks, particularly when cars are tied up on certain of the classification tracks. It was admitted that sight lines could not be maintained with long trains in these circumstances. The proposed solution was a limitation on the number of cars handled so that sight lines could be maintained. Again, much of the area is already within the area where reduced crews may work.

MAP 3:          This illustrated a problem of maintaining sight lines in pulling long trains out of the classification yard via track D.X.L. This track makes a long curve to the north as it leaves the yard. Here too there is no doubt that with long trains the move could not be made by a reduced crew. Again, the answer is in the limitation of train lengths. While radio communication may be an aid in the performance of these tasks, it cannot be (and was not) relied on as a basis for the reduction of crew size. In concluding that the moves in question may be done, using a revised switching method, by a reduced crew, I do not rely on the existence of radio or other aids.

MAP 4:          Here particular difficulty is caused where trains are being marshalled in the classification tracks to the east of “W” Tower, and cars are standing in the service track. It would appear that one man must be stationed to the west of the cars in the service track to relay signals to the engineman, and that the two other crew members would be fully occupied in that case. The Company proposes to perform service work on another track. In that case it would appear to be possible to carry on operations with a two-man crew, although this would require limitation on lengths of trains in some circumstances, and the moving of cars from what is now the service track, in others.

MAP 5 & MAP 6:        These dealt with problems which could occur in the work of crews in the vicinity of “L” Tower, engaged in the marshalling of cars from the classification tracks. The presence of cars in the classification tracks, in the caboose track, and in tracks close to “L” Tower would certainly restrict sight lines considerably. The Company’s proposal to divide the two crews normally working in the area geographically, by assigning one to the west end and one to the east end of the area controlled from “L” Tower would minimize the difficulties caused by two crews working in close proximity, but would not affect the matter of sight lines. The difficulties will be considered together with those raised in the following paragraph.

MAP 7 & MAP 8:        These deal with problems arising in connection with moving cars in and out of the car repair shop tracks, and the east and west sides of the car repair shop. Access to such tracks is controlled by the car shop safety man: as far as the safety of persons working in the area is concerned, this system provides protection for them. It is still essential, of course, for the movement to be controlled. Except where adjacent tracks are empty, or where a very small number of cars is involved, it is my view that three men would be needed to control movements in these areas properly.

MAP 9, MAP 10 & MAP 11:      These deal with problems in the area of “E” Tower. In my view, although the area is controlled from “E” Tower is not identical to that controlled by “W” Tower, it is generally analogous, and similar consideration may be applied. As before, a reduction in the number of cars handled may be necessary in some cases if sight lines are to be preserved.

In addition to the particular examples referred to, the Union set out a number of general reasons why the proposed crew reduction could not, in its submission, be instituted with maintenance of adequate safety. A number of these have been dealt with incidentally in the foregoing. It is important to note that the reduction in size of any yard crew has no effect on the obligation of the crew to comply with the provisions of the Uniform Code of Operating Rules. In particular, reference may be made to Rule 12, which reads in part as follows:

Signals must be given from a point where they can be plainly seen and in such a manner that they cannot be misunderstood. If there is doubt as to the meaning of a signal, or for whom it is intended, it must be regarded as a stop signal.

When switching is being performed, either in road or yard operation, signals should be given, or relayed directly to the engineman. Conductors and yard foremen are responsible for seeing that the work is so organized and that trainmen and yardmen are in proper position to give or relay such signals accordingly.

When cars are being pushed by an engine under control of hand signals, the disappearance from view of the member of the crew or lights by which signals controlling the movement are being given must be regarded as a stop signal.

Rules 101, 103 and 108 may also be referred to, although it is not necessary to set them out here.

The Union relied heavily on these rules, arguing that they could not be complied with by reduced crews performing the work in question. The answer to this can only be that the rules must be complied with: if in fact the work cannot be performed in a manner which complies with the rules, then it cannot be performed. The employees would not be to blame for this. The responsibility for such a situation would clearly be that of the employer. It was the employer’s position that the rules could be complied with by a reduced crew, provided certain changes in conditions or switching methods were made. It would be necessary in some situations to clear adjoining tracks, or to impose limits on the number of cars handled. As indicated above, I think it is proper to consider such possible changes in conditions or methods, provided that these are not so drastic as to alter entirely the character of the assignments in question.

Otherwise, as the Union quite properly points out, there would be no point to conducting the survey called for by the collective agreement. On the other hand, it is clear that the Company is not bound to continue its operations as they were at the time of the survey, but may quite properly alter conditions and methods so as to make a reduced crew feasible. The difficulty – or one of the difficulties – is that an arbitrator, inexpert in theses matters, is called upon to make hypothetical determinations on such an important matter as safety.

Upon a consideration of all of the material before me, it is my conclusion that the assignments performed by crews working in the vicinity of the “E” and “W” Towers may be performed safely by reduced crews, although this will require the alterations in conditions and methods suggested by the Company. I am not satisfied, however, that all of the work performed in the vicinity of “L” Tower may be safely performed by a reduced crew, although this could often be the case. Although I would reach any conclusion in a case such as this with considerable diffidence it is my view that the conditions in the “L” tower area may be distinguished from those in other parts of Symington yard, particularly in the matter of track layout and curvature, and perhaps also in the utilization of adjoining tracks. The objections raised by the Union in relation to its maps 5 to 8 were not entirely answered in the Company’s presentation.

For the foregoing reasons, it is my conclusion and award that crews working in the vicinity of “E” and “W” Towers and in Zone “T” are reducible; crews working in the vicinity of “L” Tower are not.


(signed) J. F. W. WEATHERILL