AH – 65




(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 Montreal on January 13, 1971.



In this case the Company contends that adequate safety can be maintained with a reduced consist of one yard foreman and one yard helper for yard crews working at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Generally speaking yard crews are to consist of not less than a foreman and two helpers, according to article 7 of collective agreement 4.22. That article has, however, been modified by article 7(B), added by a memorandum of agreement dated December 9, 1967. The new article establishes a procedure for determining whether yard crews are reducible, the matter is to be resolved, ultimately, by arbitration. Under the agreement, the arbitration is limited, in determining the issue, to determining whether or not adequate safety can be maintained with the proposed crew consist reduction.

In the event (as in this case) that it does not agree that adequate safety can be maintained with a proposed crew consist reduction, the Union is to give specific reasons in writing to support its position, and the matter may then be referred to arbitration. In the instant case, the Company sought the Union’s agreement to a reduction in crew size to one yard foreman and one yard helper for all crews working at Saskatoon. The Union did not agree, and a survey of the yard operations concerned was carried out, as contemplated by article 7(B)(2)(b) of the agreement. The Union subsequently advised the Company in writing of some eight matters which, in its view, constituted reasons why adequate safety could not be maintained with a reduced crew. Those reasons will be considered in order.

1.             In order to facilitate the spotting of cars at various locations and also to facilitate yarding of cars pulled from several locations running switches are made in the area serviced by yard crews at Saskatoon. Running switches could not be safely executed with a reduced crew.

To this, the Company responds that it does not expect, nor condone a two-man crew, nor a three-man crew, taking any risk by making running switches. It is the Company’s view that there is no necessity for making running switches in Saskatoon terminal. If running switches were a required procedure, it would be my view that they could not be carried out by a three-man crew with maintenance of adequate safety. Whether they may properly be carried out by a two-man crew with maintenance of adequate safety. Whether they may properly be carried out by a three-man crew or not is a matter which need not be determined in this case. If the procedure is not to be used, however, then it cannot be said to involve any question of safety. This ground of objection is therefore met, although it should be understood that if reduced crews are used in Saskatoon, they could not properly be required to perform running switches.

2.             Various crews were used to switch passenger trains occupied by passengers. This is always hazardous and requires the attention of a full crew to make sure that there are no passengers or workmen about the train before a movement is made also to be sure that all vestibule doors are kept closed. Crew members must be able to position themselves so as to give clear signals to the engineman at all times in order to avoid rough couplings. This is often difficult in wintertime, even with a full crew, owing to steam conditions.

In the case of passenger trains there is a train crew, and where there are sleeping cars there are sleeping car porters whose duty it is to ensure that vestibule doors are closed when any movement takes place, and to protect passengers. Where workmen are working under or about a train, a blue signal is required to be displayed. The yard crew’s duties relate to the movement of equipment, and would appear to be the same whether the equipment carries passengers or involves workmen – except that the yard crew must ensure that the passengers or workmen are aware that movements are being made, and adequate warnings must be given or precautions taken. The actual control of passengers, however, is a responsibility of the train crew. The task of the yard crew in this respect would not be affected by a reduction in crew size. These movements do not raise particular difficulties of sight-lines. I am unable to conclude, therefore, that in this respect maintenance of adequate safety would be endangered by the proposed reduction.

3.             At certain locations serviced by Saskatoon yard crews cars are spotted inside buildings. At some of these buildings it is necessary to use reachers as the engine is not permitted passed a certain point. Owing to the close clears at doorways the head end man must place himself outside the building and the foreman or other helper inside close to the door to relay the signals of the third man spotting the cars. Spotting of these cars would be extremely hazardous with a reduced crew.

References were made by the parties to a number of locations in Saskatoon terminal where cars are spotted inside buildings and reachers are used. In each of these situations there are very few cars handled in making any particular spot; trackage is straight and distances are short. One helper on the platform inside a building can pass signals to the foreman at the doorway, who can relay them to the engineman without difficulty. In my view, such situations could be handled safely by a two-man crew.

4.             There are several conditions at the Saskatoon C yard which require a full crew to maintain safety such as curvature of track requiring a helper to go wide to a position where he can relay signals to the engineman. Also on at least one lead the switches are on the opposite side from the engineman making it necessary to cross in front of the movement in order to line switches.

This objection consists of two parts. The first relates to “curvature of track”. There are always curved tracks, and one of the important matters in cases such as this is the determination whether, at particular locations, reasonable sight lines can be maintained. This matter will be considered with respect to a number of situations in the Saskatoon terminal, in connection with other objections. It is not specified in any particularity in objection number 4.

The second part of the objection relates to the necessity of a yardman’s having to cross the track in front of the movement in order to line switches. The same necessity may exist at present with three-man crews, but it would seem probable, without analyzing the matter, that the members of a two-man crew would have to cross in front of the movement somewhat more frequently in order to line switches. It does not appear, however, that this would subject the yardmen to a substantially greater risk of harm than previously. As always, it is essential that the movement be controlled at all times, and moves must be arranged so that a yardman can cross the track when necessary, in complete safety. The movement cannot be made until the switch is lined, and it may have to be stopped to allow the yardman to cross over. Reduction of the crew might increase delays on these movements, but it would not have a significant effect on safety in this respect.

5.             Some of the industrial tracks where cars are spotted in the Saskatoon area have restricted side clearance. Reduced crews working under these conditions would further aggravate an already hazardous condition.

It was explained in the Union’s brief that this item refers primarily to industries where cars are spotted inside buildings. The question is similar to that considered under item (2) above. The question in each case is whether restricted side clearances reduce sight lines to the point where a two-man crew could not handle the work safely. In my view, the only difference between a two-man crew and a three-man crew in this respect would be that a three-man crew would have the capacity to handle longer cuts of cars. In the case of a two-man crew there would be a man spotting a car, and a man at or near the point of restricted clearance, passing signals to the engineman. If there were a third man, he could relay the signals again to the engineman, who might be further away. In switching of this type, long cuts of cars would be unusual; in any event the question is simply whether the work can be done safely by two, and subject only to the limitations of train length imposed by the sight lines, there is really no difference in this work between a three-man crew and a two-man crew. The three-man crew can handle an additional relay, but must overcome the problem of the restricted side clearance in essentially the same way.

6.             There are a number of places within the Saskatoon switching area where the gradient is such that cars must be secured by hand brakes at all times. It is our contention that in some of these locations a full crew is required to maintain adequate safety.

The Union’s objection to reduction of crew size did not refer to any specific locations where this factor was involved, but at the hearing and in its brief the Union referred to a gradient at the Robin Hood Flour Mill, where it is apparently necessary to apply hand brakes on cars left standing. Apart from the fact that it might take a two-man crew longer than a three-man crew to comply with the rules in this regard, there would appear to be no change, from the point of view of safety, where the job is done by a reduced crew.

7.             There are many unprotected public crossings in the Saskatoon area. In some cases switching movements over these public crossings is further complicated by curvature of track for a movement approaching the crossings. Movements over public crossings must be protected and often proper protection could not be afforded with a reduced crew.

While it is true that in many cases the yard crew must protect public crossings, this job can be done effectively by a two-man crew. In some cases the Union contends that protection must be maintained during the course of switching which itself occupies at least two yardmen. These cases will be considered under the following heading.

8.             Restricted sight lines is a problem throughout the Saskatoon terminal. The date fact sheets provided by the Company list some of the locations where these restricted sight lines occur and list the average number of cars handled at each location. It is our contention that on order to maintain safety the maximum number of cars handled at leach location must be considered and on this basis full crews are necessary at many of the locations listed.

The matter of maintaining sight lines is, as has been noted, of crucial importance in determining whether any switching operation can be carried on safely. In objecting to a reduction in crew size, it is the Union’s obligation to give specific reasons in writing why, in their opinion, adequate safety cannot be maintained. This would include, where it is alleged that restriction of sight lines is a material consideration, the specification of those locations where it is alleged that restricted sight lines would prevent a two-man crew from carrying out its assignment with adequate safety. In its letter objections, the Union did not make any such specification, although in its brief presented at the hearing certain specific situations were referred to and these will be considered in determining the matter.

In certain cases it is acknowledged that a two-man crew could not handle as many cars at a time as a three-man crew could because of limitations on sight lines. In these cases the Company suggested alternative switching methods, including limitations on the number of cars which may be handled at certain locations by a two-man crew.

In earlier cases arising under these provisions of the agreement, regard has been had to these alternatives in determining whether the work could be done by a two-man crew with maintenance of adequate safety. It was contended by the Union that this was wrong; it will be noted that in this objection number eight it is urged that it is the maximum number of cars handled at each location which is to be considered. The Union took issue with what was said in the Symington Yard case (AH-62), that “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”.

The purpose of the survey called for under article 7(B) is plainly to provide the parties, and if necessary the Arbitrator, with some basic information as to the nature of the work at issue. But it must surely be recognized that the work and the conditions in which it is performed vary from day to day. In the instant case, for example, the Union’s survey notes frequently contain the assertion that traffic on the day of the survey was unusually light: this does not mean, of course, that it would always be light, or even that, while a two-man crew might have handled the traffic on the day surveyed, it could always do so without limitations on the numbers of cars to be handled at one time. The survey, hopefully, gives the parties, and the Arbitrator, some basis for a rational understanding of the problems involved throughout the areas in question. It may be added that limitations on the number of cars which may be handled always exist, although with a three-man crew the necessity might rarely arise. Further, however, it must then be said that the mere assertion of a limitation on cars to be handled cannot be allowed to be a pat answer to every problem of sight lines. In some cases, for example on curved track inside industrial premises where work is being carried on and there are a number of obstructions, it could be realistic to impose a restriction of one car being moved at a time. But in others, for example in a classification yard, a restriction of this sort would simply be ludicrous, and would completely alter the character of the work. In determining whether adequate safety “can” be maintained, it is the Arbitrator’s task to make that determination in the light of as realistic a view of the situation as possible, and with a reasonable expectation of what can be done in that situation.

As was said in the Symington Yard case (AH-62), the work must be performed in accordance with the Uniform Code of Operating Rules. Yardmen themselves, in carrying out their duties, will be aware whether or not sight lines are being maintained at any time. In some cases, these will no doubt vary with climactic conditions. A two-man crew may in some cases operate with much less efficiency than a three-man crew, but this loss is simply something which the Company must bear.

There are four specific instances referred to in the Union’s brief under this head. (One, switching including a public crossing at the Co-Op Mill was referred to in the foregoing item.) These locations are, in addition to the Co-Op Mill, Robin Hood Flour, Duval Potash and Quaker Oats. There were a number of other locations referred to in the Union’s survey report, but these were not referred to in the specific reasons put forward by the Union. Many of these locations are, however, referred to in the material before me, and upon a consideration of the material, I am satisfied that the assignments in question could be carried out at those locations by a two-man crew with maintenance of adequate safety.

The Co-Op Mill is located close to 33rd Street, where there is a public crossing which must be protected. Under the Uniform Code of Operating Rules, such protection is to be provided from a point on the ground at the crossing until the crossing is fully occupied. There are only two switches to be handled at this location, both of them close to the crossing. Whether there be a three-man crew or a two-man crew, it would be feasible for the man protecting the crossing to operate the switches as well; he would not be required to remain right at the crossing either while it was empty or while it was fully occupied. There is a curved track going into the Mill, and sight lines could be maintained only by restricting the number of cars handled. With the appropriate restriction, however, it would appear that the work could be safely handled by a two-man crew.

The Robin Hood Flour Mill is approached by curved tracks, and on a grade. Brakes must be set on standing cars and released before further movement. Application and release of brakes, however, is done at the beginning or end of any particular movement, and may be considered as a separate matter from the controlling of the movement itself. Again, there are restrictions on sight-lines which would have to be watched by restrictions on the number of cars which a reduced crew could handle. It does appear, however, that a reduced crew could do the work safely.

The Duval Potash Mine is approached on a sharp curve. During the survey it seems that the engine was operated with the engineman on the outside of the curve, so that a member of the crew was required to remain on the engine to pass signals. There is an average of twenty cars per day moved in and out of this location, but I am unable to determine whether with that number of cars the movement could be controlled by two men, where one must be on the engine. With the engine turned, however, there would seem to be no doubt that the movement could be safely handled. In its brief, the Union suggested that if the engine were headed the opposite way, some other problem might arise, but there was no specification as to what this might be.

At the Quaker Oats Mill, there is a gradient, and curved track; to spot cars on track B-22 requires shoving cars through a portion of the mill, which movement is controlled by a member of the crew using a back-up hose. The difficulties of the movement, however, are inherent in it: the procedure would be the same regardless of crew size. On other movements relating to the Quaker Oats Mill, I am satisfied that a two-man crew would suffice.

For all of the foregoing reasons it is my conclusion that the work in question can be carried on by a two-man crew with maintenance of adequate safety, and that the Company’s request must therefore be granted.

DATED AT TORONTO, this 11th day of February 1971.

(signed) J. F. W. WEATHERILL