AH – 300




(the "Company")



(The "Union")







There appeared on behalf of the Company:

M. Restoule – Manager, Labour Relations

J. L. Thib – Trainmaster


And on behalf of the Union:

M. Lesperance – Representative

B. Trivett – President, Local 37

D. M. Kerr – Local Chairperson, Local 37

M. Levasseur – Inter-Change Clerk, ONR


A hearing in this matter was held in Toronto on June 17, 1992.


This is an interest arbitration convened by the agreement of the parties to resolve an issue respecting the wage classification of clerks. The Union’s position is that the computerization of clerical functions at Ontario Northland Railway ("ONR") has altered the duties and responsibilities of clerks under the new system thereby warranting the upgrading of their wages in a manner which it maintains would be equitable as compared with the practice at other railways. The Company denies that the introduction of computers justifies a wage increase for clerks. The parties attempted to settle this issue during the course of negotiating the terms of their collective agreement, however, as they were unable to reach an agreement, they agreed to refer the matter to an arbitrator for final and binding determination.

The statement of the dispute and joint statement of issue, filed at the hearing, are as follow:


Claim by Yard Office employees that the positions of General Clerk, Yard Clerk, Bill & Train Clerk and Assistant Chief Clerk warrant an increase in rate of pay.


When the Ontario Northland originally introduced EDI billing and computerization, the union asked for a reclassification under Article 19.5 of Agreement No. 4 and the company rejected this request. The parties agreed that the case would be presented to an agreed upon arbitrator and the decision would be binding and final settlement to both parties.

The union contends that when Train Movement Clerk were introduced in 1980 at Canadian National, the affected employees got a raise in pay. The union further contends that the nature and responsibilities of the job have changed more than 60% over the last ten (10) years, along with technological change.

It is the company’s contention that the duties and responsibilities of the Yard Office Clerk have not increased and a raise in pay is not warranted.

The thrust of the Union’s position is that historically clerical employees in the Yard Office at North Bay, and at other locations within the Company’s network of operations, received wages comparable to those in similar classifications at Canadian National ("CN") and Canadian Pacific ("CP"). It submits that wage classifications for CN and CP employees were upgraded, some years ago, when computerized operations were introduced on those railways, and that similar treatment should be accorded ONR clerical employees. The Union takes the position that the increased responsibility given to the clerical employees, as well as the technological changes which have been implemented, justify that result.

It is not disputed that in recent times the Company has transferred its clerical functions from manually prepared documents to computerized documents and records. Using the Mid-South Rail computer system, a number of documentary functions in Yard Office related work have undergone a change. These include waybilling, interchange records, train journals, per diem records, car records, and crippled car records.

The Union stresses that the Yard Office staff are now required to have a working knowledge of the computer to perform their responsibilities in relation to the documentation noted above. It submits that under the Mid-South Rail computer system there is no margin for error, as was the case under the manual system. It appears that under the manual system mistakes in a waybill or bill of lading could be corrected by a subsequent rail carrier whereas, for example, under the new system, waybills will be rejected unless they are fully correct as to the information contained within them.

The Union submits that 85% of the Yard Office workload has been transferred to the computer system. The Union contends that this involves an upgrading of the skills and abilities of the clerical employees. In support of that assertion, it notes that the yard clerks were required to undergo on the job computer training, and it submits that those skill upgrades should be recognized in the wage structure.

The Union’s representative points to the wage scale paid to CN train movement clerks - $16.90 per hour, or $679.40 per week. Alternatively, she notes that CP Maintenance Clerk 3, who perform similar work, are paid $16.16 per hour, or $646.71 per week. By comparison, ONR general clerks are paid $15.64 per hour, or $625.83 per week. Based on the foregoing figures the Union requests that the Arbitrator award a weekly increase of $53.57 to all clerks in Rate Group 14, which would include bill and train clerks, general clerks - yard office and interchange clerks. It likewise seeks ratable increases to clerk positions in other wage rate groups. The increase requested by the Union would achieve wage parity with clerks employed by CN.

In further support of its position, the Union notes that there are job functions performed by ONR clerks which are not performed by CN clerks. These include billing and weighing cars, checking dangerous commodity documents, calling crews and performing related work in respect of running trades employees booking on or off. The Union also submits that there has been a rationalization of functions under the new system, as a result of which there has been a reduction of job classifications, with the elimination of positions such as call boy, messenger and car checker. It submits that for practical purposes the responsibilities of a number of jobs have been subsumed under the responsibilities of the general clerk, with employees being expected to perform duties which were previously performed by a number of separate assignments. In the result, the Union submits that there is a greater diversity of functions and a higher degree of responsibility placed upon individual employees now operating within the computerized system.

The Company’s representative disputes the Union’s characterization of the changes that have occurred. It maintains that, in substance, none of the duties and responsibilities of the positions within the collective agreement have increased. It submits that although the computer keyboard has been substituted for the typewriter keyboard, the nature of the duties and responsibilities of the employees remains largely unchanged. It argues, for example, that while the system for producing a waybill has been computerized, and to some extent simplified, there is no greater degree of knowledge or skill required of the employee under the computerized system.

The Company disputes the degree of computer knowledge required of ONR employees. It stresses that all that is required is a knowledge of the computer keyboard and some familiarity with available menus, a degree of knowledge which it submits is less than mastery of the computer. In this regard, it stresses that the training of the employees was done on the job, with nine employees being familiarized over a period of some eight days in North Bay, and approximately five days at other points such as Englehart, Cochrane and Rouyn-Noranda, where some twenty-one employees were familiarized with the computer system.

In essence, the Company claims that there has been no real substantive change in the nature of the duties and responsibilities performed by the clerks by reason of the computerization of clerical functions. It also submits that there is no basis for comparing ONR clerks with clerks employed by other railways. It argues that there is a substantial difference between the degree of responsibility exercised by ONR clerks and the clerks employed, for example, by CN where the train movement clerk performs all of the functions which it maintains are divided at ONR among the general clerk, yard clerk, bill and train clerk, and assistant chief clerk. In addition, it argues that the territorial district for which CN clerks are responsible is substantially larger, as is the number of trains with which they are involved. It also points to the fact that on CN employees classified as TM clerks were required to take an outside computer course and successfully pass a test, conditions which it submits were not imposed upon ONR employees. Having regard to all of the factors presented, the Company submits that no change in wages is warranted.

The Arbitrator has some difficult accepting all of the submissions put forward by the Company. Specifically, it emerged from the representations of clerical employees in attendance at the hearing that there has, for practical purposes, been a combining of functions in the responsibilities of clerks employed on the ONR. By way of example, without being necessarily exhaustive, the Union’s representative points to the assistant chief clerk who, for a portion of the night shift, is required to work alone and to effectively perform the full range of duties associated with the various clerical classifications. On the whole, the Arbitrator is compelled to accept the evidence of the Union which suggests that there has been a change in the range of assignments which individual employees are expected to be able to perform.

I am also of the view that there has been, to some degree, an upgrading in the skill and knowledge of the employees, to the extent that they have been required to learn and use the Mid-South Rail computer system in virtually all of their day-to-day functions. While they have not achieved the level of skill required of computer programmers, they are nevertheless required to be computer literate for the purposes of all of the functions which they previously performed manually. I must agree with the Union’s representative that the fact that they have undergone training from five to eight days is evidence that they are required to work at a more sophisticated level, utilizing enhanced skills.

On the other hand, the Arbitrator is not persuaded that the working conditions and responsibilities of the clerks employed by the ONR are fully comparable to those of train movement clerks employed by CN. I cannot dispute the submission of the Company that such factors as the volume of train traffic and the size of territory for which employees are responsible are of some significance in determining appropriate wage levels. Moreover, the fact that there is a weekly wage differential of $32.69 between CN and CP clerks supports the view expressed by the employer that the wages paid to railway clerks reflect, to some extent, the particular circumstances of their employer’s operations.

In the Arbitrator’s view, a significant factor for consideration is the unchallenged representation of the Company that there has been no appreciable increase in productivity as a result of the changes implemented. While I do not believe that that factor standing alone overrides all others, it is nevertheless a significant element in fashioning an equitable result. The case for an increase in wages is plainly more compelling where it is demonstrated that changes in the duties and responsibilities of employees, including technological changes, have operated to enhance the profitability of the employer’s operations. Where such facts obtain, it is arguably more appropriate to award an increase in wages to recognize the contribution of the employees to enhanced productivity and improved profits.

Viewed from a different perspective, however, the changes in operations and upgrading of the employees’ skills have nevertheless been vital to the viability of the Company’s operations. It is common ground that the Company was required, by Government regulations, to convert all of its record keeping from manual to electronic operations as a condition of participating with other railways in integrated North American operations. So viewed, the changes implemented, and the increased knowledge and responsibilities taken on by the employees, can fairly be characterized as essential to the Company’s interest and the marketability of its operations. Additionally, as noted above, it seems to the Arbitrator appropriate to give some recognition to the increased level of skill, including the knowledge of computers and the more flexible performance of a wider range of responsibilities, which have been required of ONR clerical employees.

On the whole, the Arbitrator is satisfied that some increase in wages is justified, although not as great as the Union requests. I am persuaded by the submission of the Company that the overall responsibilities of clerks employed by the ONR are somewhat less than those of clerks employed by CN. But, in my view, they are to a great degree comparable to those of railway clerks generally, including the clerks employed by CP. I am, therefore, satisfied that an increase in wages to Rate Group 14, which includes the general clerk, to the level of $16.00 per hour is appropriate in the circumstances.

For the foregoing reasons the Arbitrator directs that the wages of clerks in Rate Group 14 be increased to $16.00 per hour, with ratable increases to be applied to all clerk’s positions in other groups as described in Article 32.2 of the collective agreement. I retain jurisdiction in the event that there should be any dispute between the parties with respect to the interpretation and implementation of this Award.