Ottawa Ontario - The union that represents conductors and engineers at Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) is asking employees to come forward if they feel they've been forced to go to work tired.
On its website, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) has created a platform for CP employees to self-report if they have been "intimidated into reporting to work fatigued."
The union also urges managers to come forward and report what they know about employees being forced to go to work while tired.
Rail Conference president Doug Finnson said the web tool will help the union document the problem of fatigue on the rails, as well as give employees a place to take their concerns without fear of retaliation.
"Workers now have a vehicle where they can submit their experiences," Finnson said.
"You don't have to worry about your manager finding out, you don't have to worry about your fellow workers finding out."
The creation of the self-reporting platform is the latest salvo in an ongoing dispute between the union and CP over the Calgary-based railway's workplace fatigue practises.
The railway, which has its own website aimed at "dispelling myths" about work, rest, and time off, has said it plans to ask Transport Canada (TC) to reduce the number of hours railway employees can legally spend at the controls of a train to 12 hours from 18 hours.
The railway has said the move will increase predictability for the company as well as make its network safer.
Currently, conductors and engineers at CP work on an on-call basis without set shift schedules or lengths, though they can take advantage of a number of different rest opportunities built into the system, everything from earned days off to the ability to request time off after reaching a certain mileage point or after completing a trip.
The system has been the target of complaints from some crew members, who say the unpredictability makes it impossible to get enough sleep or even to know when they should try to sleep in preparation for a shift.
However, Finnson said the railway's proposal to reduce the maximum hours of work is not a solution.
He said workers still wouldn't know when they are going to be called in for a trip, and would still find themselves forced to work when they're tired and rest when they're not.
"They want to treat us like batteries, where if you're not working, you're charging," Finnson said.
"Well, humans aren't batteries, and it doesn't work like that."
The union is advocating for a system in which workers are assigned set "on-call" periods instead of the current unpredictable call-out system.
In an interview in November, CP vice-president Peter Edwards said the railway is not opposed to that idea, but employees would have to give up their short-notice, optional time-off provisions.
He blamed the union for thwarting the company's efforts to make changes in this area.
"Dysfunctional working conditions," including a lack of reliable schedules, and worker fatigue, was one of the reasons cited by the Teamsters for a short-lived strike in 2015.
That strike ended after only a day-and-a-half, when the Harper government signalled its intent to force the 3,000 employees on the picket lines back to work.
The current collective agreement between the union and Canadian Pacific expires in December 2017.