AH – 451



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 of the proposed change on locomotive engineers, pursuant to article 32, due to the abolishment of assignment 210.


On October 27, 1996, assignment 210 was abolished as per Company bulletin number 4 dated October 22, 1996.

The Union submitted a grievance, contending that the Company was in violation of article 32 by not serving a formal notice of a material change in working conditions.

The Company maintains that the abolishment of assignment 210 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



This dispute concerns an alleged failure on the part of the Company to negotiate with the Council measures to minimize adverse effects on employees occasioned by the abolishment of assignment 210, contrary to article 32 of the collective agreement.

The facts are not in substantial dispute. It is a matter of record that the parties entered into two special agreements, the first being the Lachute Subdivision agreement and the second the DTS agreement. The latter concerned the movement of trains from Smiths Falls to Ste-Thérèse and also involved an arbitration award dated April 4, 1995 for the rateable sharing of that work between Smiths Falls and Montreal crews.

Apart from the DTS trains, the Company operated other movements to Ste-Thérèse, including assignment 210 which carried local traffic as well as traffic destined to the General Motors plant at that location. The position of the Company before the Arbitrator is that circumstances changed from the time of the DTS agreement when, it does not appear disputed, some three shifts operated at the Ste-Thérèse GM plant, which is dedicated to the production of Camaro automobiles. At present the plant at Ste-Thérèse operates on a one shift basis, therefore requiring substantially less traffic to service the just-on-time delivery of parts by rail.

The Arbitrator can appreciate the concern which underlies this grievance on the part of the Council. In the result, certain traffic which might previously have been assigned to train 210 has been dovetailed to be carried to Ste-Thérèse on the DTS trains. In the result, Montreal based locomotive engineers find themselves now sharing certain local work with locomotive engineers from another seniority district.

The Arbitrator is nevertheless required to deal with the core issue which arises in this grievance, namely whether what has transpired constitutes a material change within the meaning of article 32 of the collective agreement. Article 32(g) of the collective agreement makes it clear that changes which are occasion by fluctuations in traffic do not constitute material change for the purposes of the article. The facts before me leave little doubt, on the balance of probabilities, that the actions of the Company were necessitated by what is undeniably a reduction in traffic to the Ste-Thérèse operations of General Motors. The Company was compelled to make a decision as to how to best rationalize the service to that location, and the Council is unable to point to any provision of the collective agreement which would prevent the Company from assigning certain work which may previously have been done by train 210 to the DTS trains. It also appears that on a regular basis extra work, of the type previously performed by assignment 210 is nevertheless continued from St. Luc to Ste-Thérèse.

On the whole, the Arbitrator cannot, therefore, find that there has been a violation of article 32 of the collective agreement as reflected in the facts disclosed. For these reasons the grievance is dismissed.

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