VIA Must Run as Business - Roberts
Covering ground: CP Rail industrial relations men Jack Anderson Vice President (left), and Assistant Vice President Bob
Colosimo, at work on the VIA issue.
Rail passenger operations in Canada will be "a dead duck" if they are not run on strict business lines, Frank Roberts,
president and chief executive officer of VIA Rail Canada, told union leaders here recently.
Outlining the latest developments in the establishment of the new crown corporation before a group of about 100 railway crafts
union leaders, Roberts said: "We're not running the rail passenger business as a business, and if we don't start doing so,
we're going to lose it."
VIA, which will be responsible for planning, marketing, and onboard customer services of CP Rail and Canadian National passenger
operations, will stand or fall by the quality of its personnel, said Roberts.
WORK WITH LABOR
To succeed, VIA will have to work closely with labor, pressure groups, and the provinces. "We've got to make sure we can
dialogue with the community," he said.
And in the face of the most fierce competitor, the private automobile, the rail passenger business will have to work with other
forms of transportation in an intermodal fashion.
"We have got to stop being isolationists," he added.
The president of VIA Rail Canada, Frank Roberts, and representatives of CN and CP Rail met with about 100 railway crafts union
leaders recently. R. Colosimo, assistant vice-president, CP Rail Industrial Relations, outlined the effects that the government's
passenger policy will have on various groups of railway employees. The following is a summary of his presentation:
CONCEPTS AND ORGANIZATION
VIA Rail Canada was incorporated to manage railway passenger services in Canada consistent with federal government objectives for
the implementation of the railway passenger program, as outlined in the government's passenger policy tabled in the House of Commons,
29 Jan 1976. VIA is deemed a railway company under the Railway Act, is headed by a president, Mr. J.F. Roberts, and will have its own
Board of Directors.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF VIA
VIA will be responsible for the implementation of government initiatives in the matter of passenger services. The passenger
services covered under this responsibility include all inter-city, transcontinental, Quebec-Windsor corridor, and Maritime passenger
operations, but exclude commuter railway services and the carriage of goods.
Under this plan, VIA will employ on-board and ground personnel involved in:
- ticketing, reservations and baggage handling;
- distribution of food, beverages, linen, etc.;
- on-board customer service, i.e., dining and sleeping car personnel;
- administration and accounting.
Employees in these groups are now represented by four unions on CN and CP Rail: The Canadian Brotherhood of Railway
Transport and General Workers, Brotherhood of Railway Airline and Steamship Clerks Freight Handlers Express and Station Employees,
Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and the United Transportation Union in respect of CP dining car employees and sleeping car
CN AND CP RAIL RESPONSIBILITIES
Under contracts to be negotiated with VIA, CN and CP Rail will continue to be responsible for the physical operation of trains
over their lines and will provide the necessary personnel in the following categories:
- train and engine crews;
- yard switching;
- maintenance of track and facilities;
- dispensing of fuel;
- en route equipment inspection and repairs.
The railways will also undertake, for the immediate future, the maintenance of equipment on behalf of VIA. It may be that VIA will
(at some future time) establish its own main maintenance facilities and staff.
In addition, there may be circumstances where VIA Rail will request the individual railway to perform certain of its functions
involving ground personnel with employees of that railway. An example of where this might occur is in a situation where the railway
may employ a person at an intermediate terminal whose duties include, on a part-time basis, passenger-related work.
Should the passenger function remain necessary, VIA could contract with the individual railway to have it continue to be performed
by railway personnel of CN or CP Rail.
I must stress this point: The employees necessary to meet CP Rail's or CN Rail's responsibilities as outlined above will
remain employees of their respective railway companies.
THE IMPLEMENTATION PLAN OF VIA RAIL CANADA INC.
The railways, VIA, and the government, are preparing an Implementation Plan for VIA, the salient features of which will provide
(1) Effective 1 Apr 1978, (or sooner in respect of a rationalized service) VIA will manage all passenger services, both
rationalized and non-rationalized operations.
(2) Effective 1 Apr 1978, all employees required in passenger service will be transferred to VIA. (These are, as previously
mentioned, the on-board and ground personnel involved in customer service activities.)
THE EFFECTS ON EMPLOYEES
Who Are Affected - Directly
The on-board and ground personnel involved exclusively in activities under the responsibility of VIA.
How Are They Affected
These employees of CN and CP Rail who are required by VIA are those designated in the Implementation Plan to be transferred to VIA
on 1 Apr 1978, or earlier in respect of a rationalized service.
The integration of passenger service will, in addition to providing for transfer of employees to VIA, obviously result in fewer
employees being required under the VIA organization than is now required under separate passenger operations on CN-CP Rail.
Additionally, the rationalization of passenger service under government initiatives contemplates elimination or reduction in
duplicate train service. Where such duplicate service is eliminated or where a reduction in service is made, there will also be an
effect on staff requirements.
Indirect Effects on Employees
Those employees who are engaged in passenger train operations remaining under the responsibility of CP Rail or CN, i.e., the train
and engine crews, shop craft and dispatching personnel, will not be transferred to VIA but will remain employees of the respective
railways. (Should VIA at some future date undertake its own equipment maintenance, the shop craft group would then be involved to that
extent in a transfer of such employees to VIA.)
As in the case of on-board and. ground personnel, however, a rationalization of passenger services which results in elimination of
duplicate service or a reduction in service, will result in fewer personnel being required in these crafts also.
To the extent that there is a consolidation of station facilities at any location, reduction of total employee requirements in the
combined operation could result.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE
First: What we are doing today, giving a general outline on how VIA will operate, the areas of operation to be retained by
the railway, and outlining broadly the effects, as we see them, on the employees you represent.
Second: To meet with those unions who represent employees who will be transferred to VIA.
Third: Negotiate benefits to apply to all employees adversely affected by federally initiated passenger train changes. As you
are aware, the Minister of Transport made a press release on 11 May 1977, that the government is drafting regulations spelling out
general labour assistance principles to guide negotiations between the unions and the railways to establish benefits for employees
affected by federally initiated changes in railway passenger service.
These principles include such items as: assisting employees to remain at the same work location, providing training for
alternative employment, assisting employees who must relocate, avoiding loss of earnings, assisting senior employees in obtaining
early retirement, reducing seniority obstacles to allow for continuing employment or the transfer of employees to VIA Rail Canada
Inc., providing layoff benefits or severance pay, and assisting employees in obtaining employment outside the railway industry.
Fourth: To implement rationalized services as "ordered" by the CTC.
The need for discussions with those of you representing these groups of employees is obvious.
While the absolute effect on employees in these groups cannot be known until the final plan is issued, there is no doubt that
displacements will occur, and we should now work out the parameters of what can be done to minimize the adverse effects on these
Before reaching the point of implementation, there is much to be done and with the forthcoming contract negotiations this fall, we
must move deliberately into the area of finalizing negotiations required by the government regulations as soon as possible. We do not
feel that such negotiations, especially those involving new seniority arrangements, must await the formal passage of the regulations,
and we are anxious to meet with you immediately to explore the resolution of this matter.
This CP Rail News article is copyright 1977 by the Canadian Pacific
Railway and is reprinted here with their permission. All photographs, logos, and trademarks are the property of the Canadian
Pacific Railway Company.