AH - 446



St. Lawrence & Hudson Railway Company


Canadian Council of Railway Operating Unions
[United Transportation Union &
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers]


Failure to negotiate with the Union measures to minimize the significantly adverse effects to the proposed change on locomotive engineers, pursuant to article 32, due to the relocation of assignment 408 from Quebec City to Trois Rivières.


By bulletin number 11, dated May 10, 1996, assignment 408 was abolished at Quebec City and established at Trois Rivières.

Assignment 408 is a wayfreight which started at Quebec City and handles traffic between Quebec City and Trois Rivières.

The Union contends that this change, initiated solely by the Company, will result in materially adverse effects on locomotive engineers at Quebec City.

It is the position of the Canadian Council of Railway Operating Unions (BLE), that the Company is required to serve notice and the negotiate provisions to minimize the adverse effects as per article 32.

The Company maintains that the relocation of assignment 408, from Quebec City to Trois Rivières, is not a material change in working conditions.

FOR THE COUNCIL:                                 FOR THE COMPANY:

(SGD.) R. S. McKENNA                              (SGD.) G. CHEHOWY

GENERAL CHAIRMAN                                                      FOR: DISTRICT GENERAL MANAGER

There appeared on behalf of the Company:

G. Chehowy                                      – Manager, Labour Relations, Toronto

M. Oliphant                                       – Labour Relations Officer, Toronto

J. H. Blotsky                                      – Manager, Operations

B. Yeandle                                         – Road Manager

G. Deciccio                                        – Road Manager

And on behalf of the Council:

R. S. McKenna                                 – General Chairman, Barrie

B. Brunet                                           – Local Chairman, Blainville

A. Verner                                            – Local Chairman, Grande Piles

R. McLellan                                      – Local Chairman, Chateauguay

A hearing in this matter was held in Montreal on Monday, November 3, 1997



The facts are not in dispute. By bulletin no. 11 dated May 10, 1996 the Company announced the abolishment of assignment 408 at Quebec City and the re-establishment of that wayfreight assignment to Trois Rivières. The Council notes that this caused a ripple effect whereby two locomotive engineers, one at Quebec City and one at Trois Rivières, were affected in their job bidding opportunities.

The Company, on the other hand, cites paragraph (g) of article 32 of the collective agreement which governs material change in working conditions and reads as follows:

(g)           The effects of changes proposed by the Company which can be subject to negotiations and arbitration under this article do not include the consequences of changes brought about by the normal application of the collective agreement, changes resulting from a decline in business activity, fluctuations in traffic, traditional reassignment of work or other normal changes inherent in the nature of the work in which engineers are engaged.

This issue has been raised for decision a number of times in the railway industry, resulting in a number of precedents in the Canadian Railway Office of Arbitration. Notably, in CROA 332 Arbitrator Weatherill was called upon to determine whether the change in location of certain wayfreight assignments constituted a material change. Subsequently a similar case was considered by Arbitrator Kate and more recently, in a case involving the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission the same issue arose (see CROA 1444 and 2893). The cases are as one with respect to the principles which they enunciate. It is clear that it is within the discretion of a railway company to relocate a particular assignment, without necessarily causing thereby a material change in the sense contemplated within article 32 of the collective agreement. More specifically, in such cases arbitrators have consistently found, as I am prepared to find in the instant case, that what occurred must fairly be characterized as a “traditional reassignment of work or other normal changes inherent in the nature of the work in which engineers are engaged” as that phrase is intended to operate within sub-paragraph (g) of article 32. In other words, the facts in the case at hand do not disclose a material change as alleged by the Council.

For these reasons the grievance must be dismissed.

Dated at Toronto November 4, 1997                                                               (original signed by) MICHEL G. PICHER