SHP – 457



Canadian National Railway Company

(the "Company")


National Automobile, Aerospace, Transportation and General Workers Union of Canada (CAW-Canada)

(the "Union")





Abe Rosner – National Representative

Ron Senz – Local Representative

John Fix – Vice-President, Mountain Region

Dennis Wray – Vice-President, Prairie Region



Denis Lanthier – Labour Relations Officer, Edmonton

Mike D’Amico – A.C.M.O., Montreal

Doug Coffey – General Manager, Manager Contract, London

Louie Timoteo – Process Manager WLRC, Walker

Ross Bateman – Manager, Labour Relations, Montreal

A hearing in this matter was held in Montreal on Thursday; 9 April 1998.


The Union grieves the violation of rules of the collective agreement which deal with the assignment of rest days. It alleges that changes made by the Company implemented effective July 1, 1996, as a result of which fewer employees were able to avail themselves of either Saturdays and Sundays or Sundays and Mondays as consecutive days off at the Walker Diesel Shop, in Edmonton, are contrary to rules 3.1 and 3.2 of the collective agreement. The Company maintains that the changes in shift scheduling were necessitated by operational requirements and to avoid excessive relief and overtime costs.

The dispute and issues are succinctly related in the Statement of Dispute and Joint Statement of Issue filed at the hearing, which read as follows:


The alleged violation of Rules 3.1 and 3.2 of Agreement 12.35 when the Company abolished all positions for Machinists and Electricians at the Walker Diesel Shop and re-bulletined the positions in order to balance all three shifts for Machinists and Electricians over the seven day work week.


Effective June 4, 1996, the Company abolished all positions of Machinists and Electricians at the Walker Diesel Shop and re-bulletined an equivalent number of positions, realigning all positions on a more equalized shift and rest day schedule.

It is the Union’s contention that the collective agreement requires that preference be given to assigning rest days of first Saturday and Sunday and then Sunday and Monday. It is further the Union’s contention that the new schedule of assigned rest days for Machinists and Electricians at the Walker Diesel Shop does not (satisfy that requirement). The Union requests in settlement of this matter that preference be given to Saturday and Sunday and then Sunday and Monday when assigning rest days to positions in the Walker Diesel Shop and that all positions be re-bulletined accordingly.

It is the Company’s contention that, based on the Railway’s operational requirements as well as fluctuations in workloads and variations in weather conditions, a more equalized shift and rest day schedule is necessary.

The provisions in dispute read as follows:

3.1 Except as may be provided in Rules 9, 52.16(a) and 52.16(b) and 52.17(g) inclusive, employees shall be assigned two (2) rest days in each seven (7). The rest days shall be consecutive as far as possible consistent with the establishment of regular relief assignments and the avoidance of working an employee on an assigned rest day. Preference shall be given to Saturday and Sunday and then to Sunday and Monday. The work weeks may be staggered in accordance with the Railway’s operational requirements.

3.2 In any dispute as to the necessity of departing from the pattern of two (2) consecutive rest days or for granting rest days other than Saturday and Sunday or Sunday and Monday for employees covered by Rule 3.1, it shall be incumbent on the Railway to show that such departure is necessary to meet operational requirements and that otherwise additional relief service or working an employee on an assigned rest day would be involved.

The diesel shop at Edmonton is part of the Walker Locomotive Reliability Centre (WLRC), a major facility for locomotive maintenance, both scheduled and unscheduled. In January of 1996 the Company increased the amount of work that would be handled at the WLRC, as well as at Macmillan Yard in Toronto. It provided notice to the Union of its plan to close the Taschereau Diesel Shop in Montreal, effective June 1, 1996 and the Gordon Yard Diesel Shop in Moncton, on September 1, 1996. Included in its article 8 notice to the Union was reference to an agreement reached between the Company and General Motors, the company from which the employer has purchased a substantial number of new high horsepower locomotives. Under the terms of the contract, referred to as the "Power by the Mile" agreement, the manufacturer of the locomotives would take over the supervision and management of their maintenance at both Macmillan Yard in Toronto and the Walker Diesel Shop in Edmonton. The evidence establishes that some 329 General Motors locomotives are assigned to the WLRC for service. It appears that 254 GM high powered locomotives were assigned at the time of the "Power by the Mile" agreement. Under the terms of that agreement the shop was effectively divided into two working units. Part of the shop, under the supervision of General Motors management, utilizes bargaining unit employees to service General Motors locomotives purchased in 1978 or later. The balance of the shop, also utilizing bargaining unit employees, albeit supervised by the Company’s staff, maintains older General Motors locomotives, and a number of Alco locomotives, an earlier generation of equipment eventually destined to be replaced.

Under the new arrangement the Company determined that greater efficiencies, and significant savings in wages, could be realized by moving to a greater seven day operation. In the result, a new working schedule was implemented, the impact of which was to reduce the opportunities for machinists and electricians to have either Saturday and Sunday as days off, or Sunday and Monday. The impact on the work force is reflected in the following table, which lists the employees, both before and after the change, in respect of their consecutive two days off:

Days Off

June 1, 1996

July 1, 1996

























As the above chart indicates, there was an immediate loss of twenty-five Saturday/Sunday rest day assignments and seven Sunday/Monday rest day assignments, with the implementation of the "Power by the Mile" agreement. It appears that subsequently further adjustments were implemented, reducing the Saturday/Sunday rest day assignments to forty-three and the Sunday/Monday assignments to eighteen. That change, however, is the subject of a separate grievance, and does not form part of the instant dispute.

The Union’s representative submits that the Company failed to provide to the Union information and data which would demonstrate, as is the obligation of the Company, that the changes in scheduling were necessitated by operational requirements and the avoidance of relief and overtime. He stresses that in fact since the implementation of the "Power by the Mile" system, there has been a substantial increase in overtime hours at the Walker Diesel Shop. The Union’s representative questions why the Company had a need to perform more scheduled inspections and unscheduled repairs on weekends, stressing that the previous system appears to have operated without difficulty for a substantial number of years. He notes, as well, that there has been a substantial rise in the number of locomotives serviced at the facility, increasing from 359 in 1989 to 504 in 1997. During the same period there has been a decline in the number of employees from 168 to 161. In addition, apart from the sheer increase in the numbers of units to be inspected and serviced, the Union stresses that the new GM high horsepower units require more person-hours for scheduled inspections and maintenance. In the result, it submits, the employees have been forced to bear the burden of a greater workload handled by a smaller workforce.

The Company’s representative submits that there was ample justification for the adjustment in scheduling. The figures which the Company filed before the Arbitrator in its hearing brief disclose that under the new "Power by the Mile" arrangement, pursuing the previous policy of doing scheduled inspections on a five day per week basis and unscheduled repairs on a seven day per week basis, the Company would have incurred an estimated $2,623,000.00 in overtime annually at the WLRC. Alternatively, under the newly established seven day operation, commencing July 1, 1996, the annual projection for overtime was reduced to $871,000.00. In addition, as is not disputed by the Union, doing scheduled repairs on a seven day per week basis brings to bear certain overall efficiencies and improvements in productivity, simply by reason of the flow of the work.

The Company’s representative submits that no weight should attach to the argument advanced by the Union with respect to the fact that overtime has in fact increased since the implementation of the "Power by the Mile" agreement. He points to the evidence of Mr. Mike D’Amico, Assistant Chief of Motive Power, who explained that the new high horsepower GM locomotives have required a higher degree of maintenance under the program overseen by the GM supervisory staff than was previously given to locomotives. With the break-in of the new equipment and the establishment of the routines for its ongoing service, it is anticipated that the burden of maintenance on the GM locomotives will decline and stabilize after a period of years. More significantly for the purposes of this grievance, the Company’s representatives stress that the additional overtime that has been encountered would, in any event, be in addition to the excessive overtime which the Company in fact avoided by resorting to the seven day servicing schedule.

The language of rules 3.1 and 3.2 has received previous arbitral consideration. In SHP-27, an award between CP Rail and the Railway Employees Department, Division No. 4, an award of Arbitrator Weatherill dated April 26, 1975, the predecessor union grieved the decision of the company to schedule machinists and machinist’s helpers at the St. Luc Diesel Shop with rest days other than Saturday and Sunday. The Company sought to justify its adjustment on the basis of operational requirements, and the avoidance of overtime.

Arbitrator Weatherill accepted the position of the Company, commenting a pp. 3-4 as follows:

The St. Luc Diesel Shop is a "running shop" rather than a "main shop". As such, it operates on a continuous basis, performing day-to-day servicing, inspection and repair of diesel locomotives. Prior to the change in assignments which led to certain employees being reassigned, with rest days other than Saturday and Sunday, the Company changed its system of mileage inspection of locomotives to one of datal inspection. This permitted a smoother, more constant flow of work through the shops. This change of method was, certainly, a proper exercise of the management function. Partly as a result of this change, and partly, it seems, in the course of normal operations, it was found that there was more work to be done on weekends than could be handled by the staff then scheduled for weekend work. To increase the overall work force would not be a reasonable move, since the problem was not one of an insufficiency of staff in relation to the work to be done, but rather one of unbalanced scheduling of staff in relation to work required to be done on a continuous-operations basis. It is clearly provided by Rule 3.2 that the Company may schedule its assignments so as to avoid additional relief service or the working of employees on assigned rest days. The schedules here complained of were instituted in order to meet work requirements, and to avoid the extra or overtime assignments referred to. I find that they were in fact necessary to meet the requirements of operations.

It is accordingly my conclusion that the assignments in question were not in violation of Rule 3.2. Accordingly the grievance is dismissed.

Upon a review of the instant dispute the Arbitrator is of the view that the Company has demonstrated that both operational requirements and the avoidance of excessive overtime have made the adjustment implemented by the Company necessary, within the meaning of rule 3.2 of the collective agreement. The evidence before me discloses a number of factors, including operational changes, that caused the Company to make the adjustments in scheduling which it did. Firstly, in early 1996, a decision was made to terminate the servicing of locomotives at two of the Company’s previously operated diesel shops at Moncton and Montreal. This involved a necessary increase in the volume of inspections and repairs to be performed at both the Walker Diesel Shop in Edmonton and Macmillan Yard in Toronto. In addition, the Company entered into the "Power by the Mile" arrangement with General Motors, whereby a more intensive degree of maintenance would be brought to bear on newly acquired high horsepower locomotives. It does not appear disputed that the time required to perform scheduled inspections on those locomotives, to meet General Motors’ specifications, involves an additional twenty-six person-hours per unit, which necessitates a total of some three and one-half days of work for each locomotive. Also, it does not appear disputed that the Company’s general policy, system wide, with respect to improving productivity and efficiency has involved a general directive to avoid new hiring or unduly increasing the workforce complement. That policy is, I think, one which the Company is entitled to pursue, for bona fide business reasons. In the result, management at the Walker Diesel Shop found itself faced with a need to rationalize and streamline work and shift schedules to better and more economically service an increased number of locomotives, including a substantial number of high horsepower General Motors locomotives with special needs, to meet its operational requirements.

It may be noted that limits on Saturday/Sunday and Sunday/Monday days off have, in any event, been a necessary part of the Company’s operations, and its ability to meet its operational requirements. As the data reproduced above indicates, even before the change in scheduling, some 66 of some 157 employees were scheduled for days off on days other than Saturday/Sunday or Sunday/Monday. There is little dispute that in approaching the interpretation of the phrase "necessary to meet operational requirements" a certain balancing of interests necessarily comes into play. It is, of course, arguable that the Company could increase the capacity of its diesel shop, and add substantially to the number of employees who work within it, to accomplish virtually all but emergency service on a Monday to Friday basis. However, the language of the collective agreement, and the previous practice, suggest that in fact the parties have never intended to put the employer to so burdensome a requirement, and that it is has long been acknowledged that operational requirements can justify weekend scheduling.

In the case at hand, as reflected above, a number of new factors have come to bear to justify an increase in the amount of work performed on weekends by both machinists and electricians. The closure of two shops elsewhere in Canada, the acquisition of a new generation of high horsepower General Motors locomotives and the contracting of manufacturer supervision and management of a heavier maintenance schedule for that equipment have given rise to new operational demands. The continuing of the previous schedule would, I am satisfied, result in both unacceptable inefficiencies and an excessive burden of cost for relief and overtime. In the result, therefore, the Arbitrator is satisfied, based a number of changed conditions, including the additional burden of inspections and maintenance in respect of high horsepower General Motors locomotives, and the need to avoid undue overtime, as well as general constraints upon additional hiring, that the Company has in fact justified the adjustments which were made in respect of scheduling at the Walker Diesel Shop, in keeping with the provisions of rule 3.2 of the collective agreement.

For the foregoing reasons the grievance must be dismissed.

Dated at Toronto, this 17th day of April, 1998 (signed) MICHEL G. PICHER