SHP 334

IN THE MATTER OF AN ARBITRATION

BETWEEN

CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAY COMPANY

AND

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

GRIEVANCE RE ABOLISHMENT OF TWELVE MACHINIST POSITIONS AT TRANSCONA MOTIVE POWER SHOP

 

 

SOLE ARBITRATOR: M. G. Picher

 

 

There appeared on behalf of the Union:

A. Rosner Executive Secretary, CCRSU

L. Biniaris System General Chairman, IAM& AW

 

 

There appeared on behalf of the Company:

S. A. MacDougald Manager, Labour Relations, Montreal

B. Laidlaw System Labour Relations Office, Montreal

D. McGinity General Supervisor, Motive Power, Transcona

G. Gysel Employee Relations Officer, Transcona

 

A hearing in this matter was held in Montreal on December 6, 1990.

 

AWARD

This arbitration concerns the Union's claim that some 16 layoffs at Transcona, Manitoba were the result of operational and/or organizational change. It submits that the Company was under an obligation to provide a notice accordingly, and to apply the terms of the Employment Security and Income Maintenance Agreement for the benefit of the employees affected. The Statement of Dispute and Joint Statement of Issue filed at the hearing is as follows:

Dispute

Claim by the Union that it ought to have received a notice pursuant to Article 8.1 of the Employment Security and Income Maintenance Agreement (The Plan) dated August 19, 1988, in connection with the abolishment of sixteen machinist positions at Transcona Motive Power Shop, Transcona, Manitoba, on August 17, 1989.

Joint Statement of Issue

On July 10, 1989, the Company provided notice to sixteen machinists at Transcona Motive Power Shop abolishing their positions effective August 17, 1989.

As a result of the abolishments and resulting displacements, twelve machinists were laid off at Symington Motive Power Shop.

The Union contends that the layoff of these twelve machinists was the result of a Technological, Operational or Organizational change and that a notice under Article 8.1 of the Employment Security and Income Maintenance Agreement (The Plan) ought to have been issued.

The Union requests that all adversely affected employees be made whole.

The Company disagrees that an Article 8.1 notice was required and declined the Union's request.

***

The material before the Arbitrator establishes that the Company has made a number of changes in the frequency of service provided to locomotives at the Transcona Main Shops. Previously, trucks were removed and rebuilt every 10 years, as opposed to every 12 years under the new schedule of service. Similarly, engine blocks are now removed every 12 years, as opposed to every 5 years as was done previously. Similarly, the scheduled maintenance of certain brake systems was converted from a biennial schedule to a triennial maintenance rotation, with the result that a number of brake components are changed out 1/3 less frequently. The Union submits that it is these changes, and not fluctuations in traffic, which occasioned the elimination of the 16 positions which are the subject of this grievance.

The Company maintains that 45 machinist positions were eliminated at Transcona as a result of operational and organizational change. It submits, however, that the 16 positions in respect of which this grievance is filed represented jobs eliminated as a result of a downturn in traffic, in consequence of which article 8.1 of the ESIMA would have no application. It relies on the terms of article 8.7 of the ESIMA which is as follows:

8.7 The terms operational and organizational change shall not include normal reassignment of duties arising out of the nature of the work in which the employees are engaged nor to changes brought about by fluctuation of traffic or normal seasonal staff adjustments. Any permanent shutdown or permanent partial shutdown of an operation, facility or installation, shall be considered as a Technological, Operational or Organizational change. Any permanent Company-initiated changes, (excluding changes which are brought about by general economic conditions) which result from the reduction or elimination of excess plant capacity shall also be considered as Technological, Operational or Organizational changes.

What does the evidence before the arbitrator disclose? It is common ground that the shops in question have been reorganized to the extent that the frequency of certain kinds of routine maintenance and overhaul work has been substantially reduced. In the result, there is less work to go around. This, on the face of it, would result in a reduction of positions by reason of an operational change. Additionally, the Union has placed before the arbitrator extensive figures in relation of the volume of freight transportation moving through Winnipeg in western Canada. In the period between October of 1988 and November of 1989 those figures demonstrate a relative consistency of traffic over the whole of the period, with only a slight decline in the summer of 1989. On the other hand, the Company has provided the arbitrator with no hard evidence which can be said to demonstrate a causal link between a decline in freight traffic and the decision to abolish the 16 positions in question. I make that observation without accepting the submission of the Union that the burden of proof is upon the Company. While I accept, as the Company maintains, that the burden of proof in these proceedings remains upon the Union, I must conclude that it has established prima facie evidence which substantially calls into question the position advanced by the Company. In the face of that evidence the Company has referred no evidence in rebuttal to establish, on the balance of probabilities, that the permanent abolishment of positions at Transcona was the result of a decline in freight traffic, and was not the result of operational or organizational change at that location. The most plausible interpretation of the material before me leads to the conclusion that the reorganization of service and overhaul schedules was the reason for the job abolishments.

It is not sufficient for the Company to show that the job abolishments were coincidental in time with a drop in freight revenues. Where, as in the instant case, the prima facie evidence established by the Union discloses that there has been no real and sustained change in the frequency of freight traffic, it is incumbent upon the Company to adduce evidence which shows a causal link between a reduction in freight volumes and the service requirements which occasioned the reduction of the work giving rise to the job abolishments in question. No such causal link can reliably be made on the basis of the material placed before me in the instant case.

In these circumstances the Arbitrator is compelled to conclude that the abolishment of the 16 machinist positions at Transcona Motive Power Shop was the result of operational and/or organizational change within the meaning of article 8.1 of the Employment Security and Income Maintenance Agreement. I therefore find and declare that an article 8 notice ought to have been issued, and direct that the Company make whole the employees adversely affected for any losses which they may have incurred. I retain jurisdiction in the event of any dispute between the parties respecting the interpretation or implementation of this award.

DATED at Toronto this 10th day of December, 1990.

(sgd) M. G. Picher

Arbitrator