IN THE MATTER OF AN ARBITRATION
BC RAIL LTD.
UNITED TRANSPORTATION UNION
RE ARTICLE 138(a) – ADDITIONAL DUTIES
Sole Arbitrator: Vincent L. Ready
Appearing For The Company:
Michael Keiran – Counsel
Appearing For The Union:
Robert Sharpe – Counsel
A hearing in this matter was held in Vancouver, BC on March 8, 2002
The parties agree I have jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter in dispute. The case involves a grievance filed by the Union alleging the Employer has violated Article 138(a) of the Collective Agreement, by requiring its members to perform "additional duties", as a result of the centralization of terminal management personnel into the recently established Work Order Centre (WOC) in North Vancouver.
Article 138(a) reads as follows:
Implementation of reduced crews as per the 1985 Reduced Crew Award will not result in U.T.U. members being required to perform additional duties which they were not normally required to perform at the time the reduced crew arrangement is implemented.
Commencing in June of 2000, the Employer centralized its terminal operations through the establishment of the WOC. The Employer's operations in the following areas were affected by its cost saving centralization plan:
§ Fort Nelson
§ Dawson Creek
§ Fort St. James
§ Williams Lake
§ Fort St. John
The evidence before me reveals there have been some additional duties assigned to UTU members, and that these have changed since the initial implementation of the WOC in June, 2000 Originally, UTU members were directed to look after the FAX and RIT machines (paper and printer material), and bulletins for bulletin books (operating bulletins, safety , and job applications). Union members were also responsible for supplies to engines such as water and required documents. At present, these duties have now been assigned to others, with the exception of MacKenzie crews who still look after bulletins for bulletin books.
The evidence also shows that UTU members currently perform rail car/yard checks and are directed to coordinate movements between yard crews and between road and yard crews. These duties were previously handled by yard coordinators, who directed crews on how they were to move within the yards. Road crews are now required to contact the WOC regarding on-line work, which was not done prior to centralization. The work was on consist or train message, and the delay report was faxed at end of trip, and consist filled in regarding pick up or set out of cars.
The Union alleges that, as a result of the restructuring, its members have been assigned duties they had not previously performed, contrary to Article 138(a) Rather, the duties were formerly performed by management and employees in other bargaining units.
On behalf of the Union, Mr. Sharpe points to the number of matters UTU members have taken on during the early stage of the Employer's WOC centralization plan, and those currently performed.
Mr. Sharpe asserts the rail car /yard checking duties currently performed by UTU members raise a particular safety concern due to the increased use of radios for communication. The additional strain on the radio frequency increases the possibility of interruption, with consequent safety implications.
Mr. Sharpe states that the Union does not hold the position that the duties of reduced and CCO crew are "etched in stone", He contends, however, any changes must be negotiated with the Union, as opposed to the Employer simply assigning additional duties to UTU members. Counsel points to the parties' August 5, 1994 arbitration award which provides:
Given the parties inability to achieve consensus on any of the contractual issues, I am quite certain that there will be a need for the parties to re-examine the terms of the agreement in the future. This is best done by the parties themselves in future collective bargaining.
The Employer, on the other hand, takes the position that Article 138(a) does not apply to the present case as there is no "nexus" between the implementation of reduced crews and the present situation involving a centralization initiative Mr. Keiran, on behalf of the Employer, states:
Article 138(a), by its wording was intended to have a limited shelf life to cover the period of implementing reduced crews at BC Rail. That shelf life has long since expired since reduced crews have now been established for over 15 years without dispute as to whether any additional duties may have been attributable to the implementation.
The Employer argues, alternatively, any "additional duties" required to be performed by UTU members as a result of the establishment of the WOC do not contravene Article 138(a). In respect of the duties relating to the rail car/yard check functions, the Employer essentially takes the position that the "administrative aspects associated with properly understanding, documenting, reporting and recapping train, terminal and yard activities" have always fallen within the proper ambit of UTU members.
Mr. Keiran states Article 138(a) does not bar the Employer from utilizing technology that did not exist when Article 138(a) was drafted He states that an increased expectation for freight and yard crews to properly document and report their activities using current communications technology does not constitute a violation of the provision.
Having carefully considered the facts in this case, together with the parties' respective submissions, I find Article 138(a) remains effective in the parties' Collective Agreement and may, in some circumstances, pose a bar to the Employer from assigning certain work to UTU members In the present case, however, the provision has not been triggered.
There is no support for the Employer's assertion that the "shelf life" of Article 138(a) does not extend to the present case. The provision has existed in the Collective Agreement, in one form or another since 1985. In 1994 Article 138(a) was amended to its current form, and has not since been deleted or altered.
While Article 138(a) remains "alive" in the parties' Collective Agreement, it does not bar the Employer from assigning the work which is the subject of the present dispute. Since the 1985 Reduced Crew Arbitration Award, unreported, July 6, 1985, it has been established that the Employer bears the twofold onus of establishing a reduced crew operation can be accomplished without compromising safety , and without placing an "undue burden" upon the remaining reduced crew. Article 138(a) cannot be read in isolation of these considerations.
The Union has pointed to a number of additional duties placed on its members commencing with the introduction of the WOC in June of 2000. On the information before me the combination of myriad additional tasks assigned to UTU members at the time the WOC was first established comes close to, bvt does not quite constitute, an undue burden Notably, and only with a single exception referred to above involving the situation in MacKenzie, the "initial" additional duties have markedly diminished over time,
In regards to the rail car /yard checking duties specifically, there is no support for the proposition that the increased use of radios poses a safety concern. The evidence reveals the Employer has, essentially, organized its workforce by using crews to report certain information to management. The essence of this work has not changed although reporting is made electronically by telephone, fax or computer, rather than personal contact. In context, the "additional" duties are relatively minor and have been properly assigned to UTU members.
The grievance must therefore be denied.
It is so awarded.
Dated at the City of Vancouver in the Province of British Columbia this
15th day of March, 2002.
Dated at the City of Vancouver in the Province of British Columbia, this 15th day of March, 2002
(signed) VINCENT L. READY