SHP - 57



Canadian National Railway Company

(the "Company")



(the "Union")



SOLE ARBITRATOR: J. F. W. Weatherill




J.W. Asprey



J.R. McLeod



A hearing in this matter was held in Montreal on February 15, 1979



The Joint Statement of Issue in this matter is as follows:


The overhead "travelling" crane in the boiler shop at Moncton Main Shops was modified from a cab control to a pendant type control. The crane is operated from the Shop floor by a member of any craft who requires its use.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers contend that by not assigning an electrical worker to operate the crane any time it is used the Company is violating Rule 57.2 of Wage Agreement No. 16.

The Company takes the position that a full time crane operator is not required and therefore the crane may be operated by employees other than electrical workers. The Company denies that this is a violation of Rule 57.2 of Wage Agreement No. 16.

* * * * *

Rule 57.2 of Agreement No. 16 is as follows:

Rule 57.2 Electricians' Work

Electricians' work shall include electric wiring, maintaining, rebuilding, repairing, inspecting and installing all generators, switchboards, meters, motors and controls motor generators, magnetos, igniters, electric welding machines, electric headlights and headlight equipment, and welding on work generally recognizes as Electricians' work. All inside work on public address, shop telephones, fire alarms, and electric recording systems, radio equipment and electric clocks, electric lighting fixtures, winding armatures, fields, magnets coils, rotors, transformers and starting compensators. Inside and outside wiring of shops, buildings, yards and on structures, all electric locomotives, passenger trains, motor cars, electric tractors and trucks and busses. Repairs to wiring of ignition for internal combustion engines, magnetic, electronic and all other types of electric control. Electric cable splicers, electric crane operators for cranes of forty (40) ton capacity and over, linemen who are required to work on live catenary as part of their regular assignment, and all other work generally recognized as being electrician's work. An electrician will not necessarily be an armature winder or lineman."

Rules 53 to 59 of the collective agreement contain the "special rules" for the several crafts covered by the collective agreement, including machinists, boilermakers, blacksmiths, sheet metal workers and pipefitters, carmen and moulders and coremakers, as well as electricians. Rule 57 sets out the special rules for the electrical workers craft. It deals with the matter of qualifications and with the nature of the work of electricians, linemen, groundmen and electricians' helpers. It deals as well with seniority, promotion and other matters not here material.

Reference to electrical cranes in this operation seems to appear only in Rule 57.2, above set out, and in rule 57.3 "Classification of Linemen, etc.", where the sentence "Electric crane operators for cranes of less than forty (40) ton capacity" appears. There is, elsewhere, occasional mention of work involving cranes. Thus, by Rule 53.2, Machinists' work includes "Crane slingers in locomotive shops on cranes of 100 ton capacity or over, not working under the direct guidance of a foreman". And Rule 53.4 (a) indicates that Machinists' Helpers may act as "Craneman Helpers on locomotive and car work except as provided in Rule 53.2". As well, it appears that Carmen Helpers may be "crane slingers (Rule 58.4). None of these provisions involves any conflict with the asserted right of electricians to operate electric cranes having a capacity of 40 tons or over.

The instant case relates to the assignment of certain work in a portion of the Motive Power Shop at Moncton, which has recently been changed over to a Boiler Shop. There is in this Shop an overhead travelling crane having a capacity of over 40 tons. For some years, the crane has been used only rarely. With the development of the Boiler Shop, the crane has been put back into relatively frequent use. It is, however, of much greater capacity than is needed for the uses to which it is now put. Although it has a cab from which it was controlled by the operator, it has been fitted with a pendant control, and is now operated from the ground. It remains the fact, however, that the crane in question is an electric crane of more than forty tons' capacity.

The crane is used intermittently and is operated by the employees making use of it without regard for craft or classification. Very few lifts, it seems, exceed one ton in weight. There is some conflict as to the extent to which the crane is used. At times, it would seem, it is used simply to hold equipment or materials in place for some time. It does appear reasonable to conclude, however, that the crane is used for several hours each day, although not with that length and regularity of one which would require the posting of a vacancy with respect to its operation. That issue is not before me, however, and I make no finding in that regard.

It was suggested that the operation of such a crane by pendant control was not safe. Again, the issue of the safety of the operation is not before me, and in any event is not really relevant to the question whether the operation of the crane is exclusively Electricians' work under this collective agreement. I would suggest, however, that the safety of any lift or move with the crane depends on a number of factors including the weight, size and shape of the object lifted, the height to which it is to be raised, the distance it is to be carried, and the nature of the surroundings through or over which it is to be moved. Particular attention would have to be given to other objects, columns and especially persons working in the area. Whether the lift is better controlled from a cab or from the ground can only be decided taking all these factors into account. Perhaps in some circumstances the move could be controlled from the ground, but with the assistance of a crane follower. In any event, those are matters to be decided in each case having regard to the circumstances, and are not before me.

The Company contends that if it required an employee to fill a position of Crane Operator, then it would bulletin such position to Electricians. Since it does not require such a position to be filled, the Company takes the position that anyone can operate the crane. On this point, I agree with the Union that where the collective agreement in describing the work of Electricians, refers to "electric crane operators", it does not use that phrase in contrast to, say, "the operation of electric cranes". Rather, the natural meaning of "electric crane operators" is, precisely "those who operate electric cranes", and it does not carry any necessary implication that only those classified as Electric Crane Operators, or holding bulletined position as such, are intended to be covered by those words.

In 1955, a similar question arose between the Company and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers involving the operation of a 30-ton crane at the Point St. Charles Diesel Shop. The Union's contention in that case was not sustained by the Joint Conference Committee, although its decision is given without reasons. Whatever the role of the Joint Conference Committee may have been in the resolution of grievances, my own jurisdiction in a case such as this restricted to that of interpreting the material of the collective agreement (Rule 29.1), and I may not add to, subtract from, modify, rescind or disregard any provision of the agreement, even where the result might, in some cases, appear impractical. The issue is not one as to the reasonableness of any assignment, but as to the effect of the provision of the collective agreement.

In the Ontario Northland Railway (Pineault) case (March 1976), it was said that certain "inside work on ... radio equipment" should, as between members of the bargaining unit, be assigned to electricians, having regard to Rule 57.2 and the other provisions of the collective agreement (the same collective agreement was involved). The issue in that case was whether it was a violation of the agreement to assign such work to a person outside of the bargaining unit. That is not, of course, the issue in this case. The work in that case, again, was quite different from the work involved here. The case is pertinent to the extent that it holds that the description of the work of the several crafts set out in articles of which Rule 57.2 is an example, serve to reserve that work, as between members of the bargaining unit, to members of the craft involved.

In the instant case I can come to no other conclusion than that a person operating an electric crane of forty ton capacity or over (such as the crane in question here), comes within the scope of the phrase "electric crane operators for cranes of forty (40) ton capacity or over" as it appears in Rule 57.2 of the collective agreement. The nature of the controls with the equipment may be fitted, the nature of the lifts to be made, the "real" necessity for the skills of an electrician to perform such work, are not matters which it is relevant to consider in making this determination. It is, I find, the effect of Rule 57.2 to require the assignment of such work where it is assigned to a member of the bargaining unit to Electricians. This is the result which must be reached when Rule 57.2 is read in the light of the agreement as a whole and, particularly, in the light of Rule 24.1, which provides that "Mechanics or apprentices regularly employed as such shall do mechanics work as per special rules of each craft" (clearly "Mechanic" is here used in the broad sense of "craftsmen" and not in the narrow (if more contemporary) sense of persons classified as Mechanics").

For the foregoing reasons, the grievance must be allowed.

DATED AT TORONTO, this 22nd day of February, 1979

(signed) J.F.W. Weatherill