You were given earlier two submissions. One was a submission to the standing committee, a cursory review that we did; also, you were provided with our comments with respect to the RSA panel recommendations. We have comments on every recommendation, I believe, that was provided to you. That's the submission I'm going to discuss right now.
The CAW of Canada welcomes the opportunity to provide the Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities with its comments concerning the Rail Safety Act review recently released to the public. The CAW is Canada's largest private sector union, representing over 260,000 members in more than 2,100 workplaces across the country. We have experience with federal as well as provincial railways.
Some 30,000 federal sector workers are represented by the CAW. This figure includes about 11,000 rail workers. Most work for the large private-sector employers, such as CN and CP Rail. Others work for VIA Rail, and yet others work for smaller railway enterprises such as the ONR, TransCanada Switching or OmniTrax, and Great Canadian Rail Tours or Rocky Mountain Vacations, all of which are federal enterprises. A small number of our members also work for provincial railways.
The CAW rail division includes the former Brotherhood of Railway Carmen of Canada or BRCC, the former Shopcraft Council or CCRSU, and the former Canadian Brotherhood of Railway Transportation and General Workers, the CBRT&GW.
The duties of the approximately 11,000 CAW rail workers include repairing and maintenance of freight car equipment and locomotives, servicing passenger cars, building locomotive consists, crew calling, customer service, operating locomotives, and performing conductors' duties on trains on smaller railways.
In the view of the CAW, this makes us more than qualified to speak with authority with respect to rail safety. In our cursory review of the report of the Railway Safety Act Review Advisory Panel, the CAW has found what we consider to be an outright bias of the panel. The report's first pages thank the railway lobby group, the Railway Association of Canada or RAC, for its input. The panel fails to make mention of any other group that took time to also make extensive submissions to the panel.
In addition to thanking the RAC, the panel pointedly quotes from parts of the RAC submission in its report, but again fails to quote from any other submission made to the panel. Contrary to the panel's report, which in our view tends to downplay the state of rail safety, the CAW believes the state of rail safety is much more precarious than the report would have you believe. In our view, the report has failed in its purpose and mandate.
The CAW has reviewed the recommendations of the RSA review advisory panel and offers our comments in italics after each recommendation of the panel. You have all had this ahead of time. If you want, I can go through every recommendation; if not, we can leave it there and move on.
Mr. Wheten and I will share our seven minutes.
Mr. William Brehl: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning. My name is Bill Brehl. I'm the elected national president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, maintenance of way employees division. We represent over 4,000 Canadian men and women who inspect, maintain, repair, and build the track and structures at Canadian Pacific, as well as those on almost two dozen short lines.
Because of this, we are positioned like no one else to truly appreciate the gravity of rail safety in this country and to assist in making the proper recommendations for its improvement. This is not a collective agreement issue or a bargaining issue or a labour relations issue. This is a safety issue, solely responsible for the safety and well-being of the employees and the public at large.
It is our firm belief that safety on Canada's railways must be improved. As the railways run longer and heavier trains in greater numbers, the wear and tear on the track and the equipment increases. Canadian Pacific's yearly mainline derailments climbed by over 21% in 2007, and they are steadily increasing.
Here is a snapshot of significant mainline train accidents at Canadian Pacific just within the last two weeks, beginning at Easter. On March 23 over a dozen coal cars derailed, overturning in the Rogers Pass. On March 25, on the Laggan sub, two locomotives and another two dozen cars derailed, spilling potash. On March 27, just east of Hope, a grain car broke its axle and was dragged for over three miles, destroying in excess of 1,500 ties.
On the same day, on March 27, in Ontario, north of Toronto, on the Mactier sub, a broken wheel caused the mainline to be shut down with over 60 broken rails. On April 1, on the Cranbrook sub, another train derailed, putting nine cars on the ground and spilling a mixture of commodities, including zinc. On April 5, right in downtown Medicine Hat, there was the derailment of two engines on a train carrying anhydrous ammonia. And now, yesterday morning, just outside Weyburn, Saskatchewan, there was a derailment involving three trains with dangerous commodities, including butane, ethylene glycol, vinyl acetate, dinitrogen tetroxide, rocket fuel, and nitric oxide. The fire is still burning there as we speak.
Even though not all train accidents are caused by track or equipment failure, the increase in traffic does cause fatigue on an already weakened infrastructure. It also limits the access to the track for proper inspections and maintenance. Even though it stands to reason that when more trains are run inspections should be done more frequently and maintenance schedules more strictly adhered to, this is sadly not always the case.
In the report of the Railway Safety Act review advisory panel, reference is repeatedly made to the need for openness, transparency, and accountability in the safety management, policy development, and rule-making processes. We agree. To achieve this, the advisory panel turns to cooperation and collaboration, a commitment to the development of trust and to the building of solid, professional relationships among all the parties involved. Again, we agree.
However, with the greatest of respect to the excellent work done by the advisory panel, we believe not enough consideration has been given to the critical role played by the men and women who, in rain and shine, blistering heat and bone-chilling cold, report for duty every day for the sole purpose of ensuring that our railway system, the backbone of the Canadian economy, operates as efficiently and as safely as possible.
To put it bluntly, no one knows and understands Canada's track infrastructure better than we do. Our relationship with the track is not mediated by risk assessments or safety reports or business cases. Our relationship is hands-on, direct.
We applaud the advisory panel for its recommended changes and enhancements to the rule-making process, but for any of these recommendations to succeed, the changes have to be able to be implemented on the ground. They have to be realistic, clear, and practical from an operational hands-on point of view. In short, they have to be possible, and that's where we come in.
Since we are the ones who will actually be responsible for implementing any proposed safety procedures or protocols, we believe our input must be sought and considered not only up front but on a permanent and ongoing basis. We have seen too many of our fellow workers injured and killed to know that safety rules that may look good at the planning stage may well be counterproductive when implemented.
In closing, I'd just like to say that the only way there will ever be a truly safe and efficient railway system in Canada is if the concerns, suggestions, and recommendations of the men and women, who on a daily basis actually maintain that railway system, are heard and in a formal way incorporated into the decision-making, policy development, and rule-formulation process.
First of all, I'd like to thank the committee for having us here this morning to hear our views.
I'd like to make an apology for our president, Mr. Dan Shewchuk, who wanted to be here, but it was impossible.
In the interests of saving time, I'm simply going to summarize our brief, which I'm told committee members already have a copy of. Our brief covered two topics only: scheduling train crews, and the improvement and replacement of outdated railway rest facilities.
Crews today are generally called on a first-in, first-out basis. For a time at CN, crews were called in during “time windows,” that is to say, they only had to protect a certain period of time, for example, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., three days per week, or perhaps every second day. This was when they were called out of their home terminals. For its own reasons, CN abolished this system. Crews are now being called under the old first-in, first-out system, which is very difficult for crews to work under. CP has some crews that are presently being called in time windows, but not that many.
We would also like to discuss the company's rest facilities, many of which must be replaced for safety's sake. These facilities are old, do not have noise abatement at all, and are totally inadequate as measured by the CANALERT standards. It is impossible for crews laying over in these facilities to get restorative rest.
It is entirely possible to make changes to crew scheduling and railway rest facilities. It is our opinion that doing so would eliminate many of the factors that lead to fatigue among train crews in Canada.
As of February 19, 2008, I have been the health and safety coordinator of USW, Local 2004, for one year. This company-paid and unionized position represents approximately 3,200 railway maintenance workers across the country. In my role, I act as a liaison between our members and the company in handling issues regarding health and safety, and I sit on the joint health and safety policy committee.
I previously spoke in front of this committee on April 30, 2007. Subsequent to that appearance, my remarks were the subject of numerous critical comments made by senior CN officials toward me and about the future of this position. The suggestion was that it was inappropriate for the health and safety coordinator to speak publicly or to criticize CN's performance. This has been an ongoing theme for the past year.
I believe this position has been proactive in improving the health and safety of the USW members we represent, and it demonstrates the effectiveness of including workers in the safety management system. Conversely, CN risk managers have a tendency to be reactive about safety issues and are generally unavailable to our membership, as they are often asked by the company to operate trains, to the extent that our members do not even consider calling them on health and safety issues.
Our presentation today will be a brief overview of our thoughts on the RSA review. Although the panel did support our view on numerous issues, we do have three areas that we would specifically like to address today: the speed of trains, the hours of work, and the escalation process. I'll end with a few thoughts on the culture of fear and discipline.
Our first point is about the speed of trains and our workers. This issue was first raised at the standing committee one year ago, and later as part of the steelworkers' RSA submission, which you've received. I refer to page 4. We are disappointed that the RSA panel did not address this concern in their review. However, subsequent to an employee's work refusal in March 2007, and based on his concern, a work-clearing procedure agreement was negotiated for employees working on multi-track territory, restricting the speed of trains passing a work site to a maximum of 30 miles per hour if safe clearing areas are not available within flagging limits.
We continue to request that train speed restrictions near workers be included in the Railway Safety Act. It's unfortunate that an issue as important as this, which has been raised for many years at multiple levels, had to fester into a work refusal before there was any movement.
Our second area of concern is hours of work and emergencies. We are pleased that the RSA review recognized the need for improved fatigue management in the railway industry. Although the focus of the panel's recommendations was generally on transportation employees who are operating trains, we feel that similar issues occur among maintenance workers.
In a study published in September 2000 by the British journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, researchers report that sleep deprivation can have the same effects as being drunk. The study found that people who drove after being awake 24 hours were comparable to those with a blood alcohol content of 0.10%, which would be above the legal limit in Ontario. Our concern is that CN has a zero tolerance drug and alcohol policy, but the same policy does not prevent employees from working, driving and operating machinery while completely exhausted, with similar symptoms to someone under the influence of intoxicants.
The concern for us is that our members are sent to derailment sites after an accident to fix and repair a track so that trains can again safely pass. Often, crews are flown in many miles from their own work sites, and work excessive hours at these accident sites, without proper shelter, food, or sanitary facilities. An example can be found on page 7 of our submission, where you will see that on November 24, 2005, a CN train derailed in an isolated area in northern Ontario, approximately 145 kilometres away from Geraldton. To facilitate repairs, 25 maintenance workers—based in Newmarket, Ontario, at the time—were flown on short notice at 8 p.m. to Geraldton, and were then bused three hours, on mostly logging roads, to the accident site. Upon their arrival at 1:30 p.m. the following day, having been on duty for approximately 13 hours, several workers were concerned about their lack of rest and their safety, but a CN official boarded the bus to brief the employees and stated, “I'm not going to accept you not going to work”, and “if you don't [go to work], tell me now and I will lay out the consequences after”.
After the briefing, all employees did work. These men spent 30 hours on duty in their first shift, 16 hours in the next, and had no shelter and no proper personal facilities in mid-winter conditions. They were required to continue working long after the emergency conditions were over so that trains could again be brought to full speed.
We have recommended that USW Local 2004 health and safety reps be present at major derailments to alleviate any similar safety issues on site. We believe that the Canada Labour Code allows for the presence of an employee representative. This recommendation is currently at the policy committee, and we are awaiting the company's response.
Our third issue is the health and safety escalation process. This past year, I've attended many local health and safety committee meetings to evaluate their effectiveness in resolving or escalating health and safety issues. The trend seems to be that management representatives at the local level unilaterally decide what concerns will be documented in the minutes, almost as if they do not want anything escalated to the policy committee.
On the other hand, as a policy committee member, I can also see that the policy committee is disconnected from the grassroots worker. The majority of employees are unaware that a policy committee even exists. In fact until I became a member of the policy committee, I did not know that there was such a thing or what its function was.
The steelworkers are currently educating our membership on this process, and I've seen more issues resolved as a result. Our goal is to create an effective communication system for health and safety that is consistent nationwide.
Finally, I'd like to end on a few thoughts of what we see now as the war on fear and discipline. Common sense is defined as sound practical judgment derived from experience rather than study. Common sense tells us that railway companies should encourage those who work in the field to be proactive in guiding the processes that help build a culture of safety.
The Railway Safety Act review panel would agree with this. An effective safety management system starts from the bottom up, utilizing the experience of front-line workers and embracing their input to develop safer processes. The perception is that CN is discouraging employee input by putting the fear of God into them. If you speak up, you'll be disciplined. If you speak too much, you'll be fired.
We believe that the Railway Safety Act review panel is correct in their assessment that CN is building a culture of fear and discipline. The mindset of the employee is at the point where employees are more fearful of receiving discipline or losing their job than getting injured or worse. This must change.
CN will tell you that the vast majority of accidents are caused by human behaviour. In other words, they believe accidents are the fault of individual bad workers only. This isn't true. If it were, CN would be able to discipline its way to safety, and the culture of fear and discipline would be an effective approach. As we've seen, it's not.
Accidents are the result of the combination of failures in policy, procedure, human action, and equipment. To focus solely on one aspect of cause is counterproductive to accident prevention, as doing so would allow the other aspects of cause to become prevalent without solution.
For the worker, the most effective way to fight the war on fear and discipline is with knowledge. The Canada Labour Code is a bible for health and safety, outlining employer responsibilities and employee rights. It's not a guideline; it's the law. Those whose safety depends on its contents should learn it, and those who must adhere to its law must be held accountable.
A culture of fear and discipline can successfully reduce the likelihood that a worker will call upon their basic rights under the Canada Labour Code. A company can combat a worker's right to know by not providing education or training. They can combat a health and safety committee's right to participate by keeping them in the dark on concerns, accidents, and injuries. They can combat a worker's right to refuse with pre-emptive disciplinary measures.
All of these can be a successful strategy for a company that values statistical data over reality. The thought is that everything must be okay because no one's reporting anything. However, with this panel's findings, the “catch us if you can” attitude is no longer viable.
CN's method of safety has been 100% compliance to their rules 100% of the time. My question is, where do their rules come from? Who develops them? Are employees involved with the rule-making process?
Under CN's five guiding principles, safety is the employee's responsibility. Yet the employee is not involved with the development of the rules that are supposed to protect them. Their only involvement in the rules process is through the employee investigations that occur subsequent to alleged rule non-compliance.
The employees who actually perform the work in the field must have involvement with the rules and processes that are applied. The steelworkers believe that safety is everyone's responsibility, not just one group's. This is common sense.
There's a strong connection between the health and well-being of workers and their work environments. When workers feel valued, respected, and satisfied in their jobs, and work in safe, healthy environments, they're more likely to be more productive and committed to their work. When the workplace is unsafe, stressful, or unhealthy, ultimately both the company and the workers are hurt. Everyone benefits from a safe and healthy workplace.
The objective for creating a safe work environment must be to instill confidence back in the health and safety system. Disciplining targeted workers, either directly or indirectly, for speaking up about safety issues is an action that demonstrate to employees that production is more important than their well-being. Employees are continually told that employee behaviour is a cause of accidents.
The paradox is that the disciplinarians are employees too, and their behaviour in the form of intimidation, bullying, poor decision-making or rule-making can be just as easily blamed for accidents.
We have to change attitudes ubiquitously. Trust, open communication, and commitment to safety are the first steps in instilling employee confidence back into the health and safety system and negating current negative perceptions among employees.
If I may borrow and conclude on this idea from Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense, the long habit of not thinking that this culture of fear and discipline is wrong has given CN Rail the superficial sense that it is right. I suggest in this circumstance that we seek common sense for guidance.
My name is Robert McDiarmid. I'm with the United Transportation Union. Incredibly, that represents, still, 2,800 members in Canada, primarily at CN Rail and also at the various short-line railways.
We're speaking today towards the recommendations of the panel on the formulation and adoption of rules. The Railway Association of Canada has the resources to use in developing their submissions on rule changes; however, the unions are left with very little time to respond. A 60-day timeframe is unrealistic. Unions do not have the resources and manpower available that the RAC has.
We suggest there should be opportunities for unions to provide full and meaningful input before and during the rule process, and a 120-day response time, as well as the ability for unions to recover their costs from the railways due to the significant injection of resources on the part of the unions.
As regards delegative power, we're concerned that this would have the effect of enshrining an agent such as the RAC under the Railway Safety Act, when clearly the responsibility lies with the railway companies to develop rules. There exists at this time an unlevel playing field, particularly between the unions and the RAC, and occasionally changes sought by the agent are not in the interests of safety or the employee.
Under the administrative monetary penalty, we'd like point to the McBride, B.C., accident in May 2003, where two CN employees were killed when a bridge collapsed. A penalty of $75,000 was imposed by the Transportation Safety Board, which amounted to one half-day's pay for the CEO of the company involved.
I'd point out that the first administrative monetary penalty ever applied was $3,125.
Therefore, we request that the fines levied be significant and meaningful to act as a deterrent to a railway company, and we further suggest that these fines should be applied to individual officers, as contemplated by the “Westray Act”.
As to safety management systems, some carriers' management of safety must evolve to the health and safety culture, and we believe this culture is widely interpreted by different railway companies. We have reservations that unless the safety culture of various railways is drastically improved, these recommendations will do little to improve the SMS. We suggest that these elements cannot exist in the current atmosphere of fear and discipline. Members are afraid to report injuries, as they will be investigated and in most cases disciplined for being injured on the job. Our members know that even with an excellent work record of over 30 years, they're just one accident or derailment away from possible termination. So this cannot be a just system.
A first step in changing the safety culture would be for the railway companies to embrace paragraph 135(7)(e) of part II of the Canada Labour Code, which allows health and safety joint workplace committees to participate in “all of the inquiries, investigations, studies and inspections pertaining to the health and safety of employees.”
As to fatigue management, the CANALERT '95 study is mentioned in the review, and it is important to note that these fatigue countermeasures recommended by the working group are not being utilized by all carriers.
In recent years CN has aggressively attempted to diminish collective agreement rest provisions. More recently, in the collective bargaining between the UTU and CN in late 2006-07, CN sought to have our collective agreement rest provisions eliminated completely and to have our members rely solely on the regulatory requirements. We suggest that the strike at CN in 2007 was in part due to the railway company attempting to bargain away these terms and conditions of employment.
The CN company policy change in 2005 regarding booking unfit has seriously compromised our members' ability to address key issues such as work schedules, alertness strategies, rest, lifestyle issues, and unusual circumstances. CN views employees only as an asset similar to a locomotive or a boxcar.
As to voice recorders, we suggest that there are serious privacy concerns regarding voice recorders, and the union also suspects that this voice data will most certainly be used by unscrupulous railway companies to identify undesirable employees. Therefore, we are requesting that only government regulators be responsible for voice recorder data collection to ensure that this information is used for accident investigation only.
On training for operating crews, we have significant reservations at this time and concerns specifically surrounding the training of new conductors, yard forepersons, and helpers, and the fast-track system of training at CN Rail. Because of the hiring practices, training practices, and lack of real experience, our employees and our country are at risk. We have new conductors working with limited training, working with locomotive engineers with little experience, working with rail traffic controllers who have only recently been hired with very little experience. This situation could result in an accident of significant proportions.
We request that the regulations and legislation be enacted that give Transport Canada, in consultation with the railways and unions, the authority to set course structure, qualifications, and minimum standards, including the minimum number of qualifying tours for operating employees.
We also request that new regulations for training employees on the beltpack be implemented. Currently, you are okay to operate a beltpack on the first day you qualify on your rules.
On drug and alcohol testing, it was recognized by the panel that there is an absence of correlation between testing positive for drugs and having been impaired while on duty. Our members in Canada are not subject to random testing. However, company policy of some carriers allows for the company to apply drug and alcohol tests in certain situations, such as post-accident situations or use of poor judgment. Some of our members have tested positive post-accident in a drug test, and they were automatically terminated. Therefore, we are recommending that legislation and/or regulations be enacted that require a railway that is performing drug testing, mandatory or not, on an employee to have an impairment test administered to the worker, which would measure the level of impairment.
John is actually from CN, and I represent all the members at CP, so we quite frequently discuss the differences between the two railways. CP approaches things a little more cooperatively and brings in the unions, for the most part.
On the safety management system itself, CP Rail worked with our organization on the mechanical aspects of it. Other components were left right out of it. In fact, in 2002 I wrote a letter to the railway company asking for a copy of their safety management system in its entirety. They said I could come to their head office and look at it, but they were not about to turn over the documentation to me. That made me very frustrated, as a representative. When you're trying to understand what they filed with the regulator on safety management systems, you want to be a part of that. You also want a copy of what they filed so you can follow through on it.
On how CP has approached safety, we break it into the two components of health and safety, and rail safety. The health and safety aspect is dealt with by the regulator through the Occupational Health and Safety Act, part II. If we have issues about any part of the regulations, we're not shy about calling in a regulator. The regulator is generally very good at coming in, doing inspections, and writing voluntary compliances. The employer, for the most part, follows up on all of it.
Our frustrations are with the Railway Safety Act. When we bring up issues of non-compliance to the regulator, we're seldom answered by the regulator, let alone told if anything is done about our concerns. In our presentation to a review committee, both John and I presented a few projects we had in 2000 and 2004 that identified hundreds of non-compliant items. To this day none of them have been answered by the regulator.
We believe you need a minimum standard in the regulations and the employers have to follow that minimum standard. I think the employer can exceed that minimum standard, similar to what's in play in the occupational health and safety regulations.
We view the safety management system as a plan for how they run safety on the railway. At CP, for example, their injury statistics on mechanical in 1997 showed that 12.87 of every 100 employees were getting injured. Today I think it's under two. So as far as occupational health and safety, the regulations, the regulator, the railways, and the unions have been very instrumental in driving those numbers down. When it comes to rail safety, we believe the regulator has been absent in all of it.
John can talk about the culture of fear.
Mr. Masse, I represent the maintenance workers on CP. Todd represents the same employees on CN. We deal with engineering services. I'm not sure of the culture of punishment and discipline for the operations for the running trades or for the mechanical, but it sounds like a different company from the one I'm dealing with.
CP definitely disciplines on safety issues. If you have an accident, you go in for a statement and you are disciplined.
A letter came out recently from the general manager of track programs and equipment, which are our seasonal work gangs. A letter came out from him concerning on-track collisions of machinery. He didn't come to us. I'm the member of our policy committee at CP. He didn't come to the policy committee. He didn't go to the local workplace health and safety committee and ask for ideas to lessen the on-track collisions. He put out a letter, which was posted everywhere, that said if these continue, the quantum of discipline will be increased.
We took exception to it and we took him to task, brought it to the policy committee, which went on to appeal the letter.
But it comes out right away. That's the off-the-cuff reaction every time.
I don't see CP being the good guy in this when you compare them. Maybe when you compare them with CN you can say they have 10 or 12 fewer mainline train accidents per year. Out of close to 100, 10 or 12, yes, I don't think they're all that good. I don't think things are rosy at CP. I just gave you the last two weeks' snapshot, and it's ugly.
When you say operator error and human error, that's the first thing they'll say on anything. But if you start getting into it, you get into the process, which is protect against, that was on OCS territory, the occupancy control system, that's the Weyburn one you were reading, and you can protect against other trains; it allows for human error.
Thanks to the changes in the CROR, the Canadian Railway operating rules, our guys, when we're out working on the track, have to protect against trains that can come into our track occupancy permit. We're not a train. There were no injuries there. Thank God, there were no injuries. There were minor injuries, scrapes and the like. But we're not a train. If a train hits us, we die; it's as simple as that.
I buried a friend of mine, Gary Kinakin, two Christmases ago because he was working on one track. A train was passing and was exceeding the 30 miles an hour that they should have been and, for whatever reason, Gary stepped in front of it and got hit. You don't argue with a train; you just die. It's as simple as that.
CP runs this fear and this threat culture to improve their safety. They don't include us from the bottom up, other than if they're looking at new safety policies, we'll get to see the finished product, and they'll ask us to give them our thoughts before they implement this in two days. It doesn't matter what thoughts we give them, it's being implemented in two days. But we had a chance to review it.
That's our whole submission here. We want to be included. We're willing to be included. We should be included.
One last point. On the new hires, everything seems to be going toward CN. Our track programs and equipment, which I believe are the same at CN, are probably the biggest number of accidents you have in engineering or on track program and equipment. That's where the injuries happen. The summer season is the only time you have to get that work done. If you defer it, you end up with sole orders. So it's push, push, push. It's like assembly-line track work.
At CP this year 25% of its track program and equipment employees, if they're able to hire them, are going to be brand-new. One in four are going to be brand-new. We have guys out there who are working on machinery, hired as maintainers, who have no mechanical experience at all. They're getting them under the apprenticeship program. Just two days ago a CP manager told me there's a heavy-duty mechanic two crews away within radio earshot who's supervising them. That's the outlook.
I don't see CN as the bad guy and that CP is improving. CP's derailments are increasing. They increased by 21% from 2006 to 2007 and they're going up now. Maybe they're not able to catch CN--I don't know if that's the number of trains or amount of track or differences in culture or whatever--but they're headed in that direction. They are putting, in our opinion, production over safety, and as teamsters, we're not going to stand for it.
The training systems at CP are good when they're utilized for our people, for the engineering services. But I assume they believe they're too expensive to run very much training. They try to get by on the cheap.
As Mr. Cotie pointed out, our people on the ground at CP know nothing about SMS. As you go up to the steering committees and the policy committees they begin to understand the safety management system, but the local health and safety committees have very limited knowledge.
As far as training is concerned, they didn't begin training our track foreman and our leading track maintainers, who are the two in charge of each crew out there.... They went about seven years without training anybody. You learned on the job. They were not hiring a lot of people, but they were bringing people up as others retired. Then they decided they had to start training again but they decided not to train foremen and LTM; they'd have one course and train them both. The course used to be four weeks long with a refresher every three years. Now it's for two weeks and that's it. You're trained and you're the guy.
I hate to keep throwing examples at you, but there are so many of them.
We had an incident in December 2007, outside Golden, B.C. Three employees were clearing snow on a night crew in the dark, and exceeded their limits. They were recognized by the RTC as being outside their limits when they got on the radio and were protected. Nobody was hurt, but when they looked into it, the three employees didn't have four years of service among them. None of them had received training. They were just put out to work in the dark in a snow storm.
So the training hasn't been done properly at CP, and it is an issue that we fight with them about all the time. We have it in our collective agreement that we are to be included in all training--that we supply involvement and input. But all we ever get in the end is “This is what we're going to do. Take a look at it. We're going to do it next week.”
They do the health and safety training that's mandated by legislation. They keep up to date on it, and I'll give CP credit for that. They don't give human rights training or return-to-work training. All of it goes by the wayside until they have to do it. I believe Mr. Cotie said they put oil in after the engine seizes, and that's a good analogy. That's exactly it. When an accident happens they start saying “Let's fix this”.
I'll make this brief and turn it over to Mr. Cotie.
I have one other example. I lost a friend on mine in 2000. Shawn Ormshaw was changing a traction motor on an Ohio crane. There were no mechanics there at all. He was a labourer who had only worked with the railroad for two years. He undid a bolt, the traction motor fell on his head, and he died.
That implemented a change at CP in the engineering services and brought about what we call the job briefing booklet. I don't know if CN is doing the same thing, but at the beginning of every job, and if the job changes, you have to do a briefing with everybody. If a new person comes you have to do a briefing with them on all the hazards, what work they're going to do, where the health and safety guy is, where the first aid guy is, who's going to call 911, the ambulance routes, and all of it. They do it and it's great, but it happened after a guy died.
There are so many things we should be training our people in now--proactive instead of reactive.
Thank you to our witnesses for appearing here today. We appreciate your input.
If you've been following the hearings before our committee, you'll know that we have not gone easy on the rail companies in terms of their answers before this committee. We haven't gone easy on the regulator either, Transport Canada. We'll see how easy we wind up being on you guys. But in fairness, if we get tough, bear with us, because you're also part of the solution.
This review is 200-plus pages in length. Are you the folks who've actually read the report, or has somebody done that for you within your various organizations? You all have a good working knowledge of the document? Okay.
Out of the 200-plus pages, when Mr. Lewis was here I asked him if the heart of the entire thing really boils down to what I see on pages 73 and 74, concerning an evaluation tool for safety culture, agreeing that where we have to get to is beyond just simply rules and compliance but to safety literally permeating the culture of the operation. And that's as much for the regulator as it is for the companies themselves.
They talk about a five-stage continuum on the progress to full implementation of SMS. I think we can reasonably agree and I think the evidence strongly concludes that when SMS is fully implemented—that is, as a layer on top of the rules—that is where we will see safety results at their best. They point to Air Transat as one particular company, for example, and VIA being a little further along the path than CN and CP.
I asked Mr. Lewis to rank the companies on that continuum and to rank the regulator, Transport Canada, as well, on that. He said CN was somewhere between a one and a two; I think he put CP somewhere around a two to three; Transport Canada at the same range, about a three; and VIA at a four. So we see that there's a lot of work to be done.
First of all, I want to ask for your evaluation of both CN and CP and Transport Canada. Do you agree with those assessments, that this is about where they're at on the stage in the continuum?
Mr. Jeff Watson: I'm listening to your testimony today. I listened to CN and CP the other day, and I'm hearing the same kind of thing here. There's a strong focus on rules and compliance with rules. When I look at this continuum, that puts you guys, along with the company, to some respect, in the mindset of somewhere around two to three in the continuum, and we have to get beyond simply that type of a focus.
I think this gets to Mr. Fast's testimony, what he was asking about. I see it in the CAW's recommendations, actually, and I want your comment. You're asking for a SMS assessment guide and protocol similar to air. Have you had a chance to look at the proposed amendments on the Aeronautics Act, which talk about some sort of an immunity from players, the ability to report, to get ahead of the curve? So if I'm in a situation where I don't have enough time and I'm forced to not go through my full checklist, I'm able to report that anyway and that goes into the system for the full gathering of information. Are you agreed that this is the direction in which we have to go, that we have to get to something that encapsulates much more information than simply the rule that regulation compliance inspection captures?
A witness: That's correct.
Mr. Jeff Watson: How do you envision this reporting system functioning?
It's open to the panel, not just to you guys.
You've had a chance to look at the air side of it. Is the immunity the way to go? Is it this call-in system that you're talking about? Can it be something else we haven't envisioned?
Help us get to that, because I think that's really the key point. You want to capture much more information than we're getting right now in the system, so that we can see where the problems are in advance of something dangerous happening.
A number of the questions that I had asked of the railways and wanted to ask of you have already been asked, and I've heard your answers.
I'm interested particularly, and obviously in terms of the workers, in the issues that were of concern related to the fatigue issue, the training issue. The other is the issue of health and safety committees. I don't know, since I missed the beginning of the presentation, whether you were particularly queried about it. I know there were two recommendations that talked about this, recommendation number 19 and recommendation number 24.
Number 19, as we heard from Transport Canada or the panel, relates to the SMS and therefore concerns the companies, whereas recommendation number 24 talks about Transport Canada and the companies together having areas of responsibility.
Paragraph 24-7, I guess I'd call it, of the latter recommendation talks about a means of involving railway employees at all levels, and where possible through health and safety committees and representatives. Number 19 talks about the industry taking steps to ensure the effectiveness of local occupational health and safety committees.
We heard, in terms even of the ratings of the companies and their effectiveness, that it varies by region; the Atlantic region, the centre, and the west.
I am wondering whether you have any comments, particularly with respect to the health and safety committees.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am presenting this just to make the conversation a little bit more formal. I have been engaged in conversation with the parliamentary secretary with respect to motion number 183. The motion was introduced by a colleague from Thunder Bay--Rainy River, amended by a colleague from Niagara West--Glanbrook, and passed, I guess unanimously, in the House. It shows that all parties can work together when there's a will.
We had talked about bringing this particular motion, motion 183, to this committee for further study. I think there was a general inclination to go ahead and do that as long as it did not interfere with the already scheduled work of the committee and the intended timetable upon which we already had some agreement in principle--taking a look at the navigable waters act, for one; we wanted to make sure that was on the table and didn't get moved over to one side. Then, of course, were the usual caveats that if any legislation came forward, that would supercede any motions we were entertaining.
I think on the basis of that kind of conversation, we agreed that we were going to accept the possibility of doing motion 183. I have put it in writing for us so that it would be formal enough and the committee would know exactly what our discussions were about.
So having been as transparent as possible--everybody has the motion before them--and having laid out the parameters under which we had conducted some of those discussions, I propose that the committee deal with motion 183, and that it devote to this, I don't know, perhaps one or two meetings, and maybe even three, but certainly at least one. We would hear the mover and the amender, and take a look at exactly what they have. We'd maybe even bring in some officials from the department.
I don't think we've discussed anything beyond that. I know there was some discussion in the House with the other two opposition parties when they were engaged in debate. We haven't had any formal discussion on it here.
My intention here is not to pre-empt any predetermined schedule, nor is it to lead off into a long study that is never going to get anywhere. It is primarily to deal with a motion that has received the unanimous support of the House.
I appreciate the input of all of my colleagues. Mr. Masse is right, of course--you either do something right, or you don't do it at all.
My speculation on the amount of time that one might have spent on this or might spend down the road really has everything to do with the calculation of time allocated for other things this committee has dealt with in the past and how much time those have taken. This being a motion of the House and not a bill of the House caused me to reflect on the chronology, so my speculation is not designed to be dismissive or restrictive. It's one of pure calculation and logistics.
With respect to Monsieur Laframboise, I know that those issues were raised as well in the debate, and in fact, as I understood it, the reason the debate ended up with the result that it did is because Mr. Allison also, along with the Bloc, took into consideration, first of all, federal-provincial jurisdictions and the provincial interest in this, and secondly the question was raised as well about whether this committee would be the appropriate one.
Because there are issues related to industry and industrial strategy, and because there are issues also related to public works and procurement issues, and because there are issues related to international trade and obligations under WTO and NAFTA, etc., one could imagine that the motion might not appear to be focused on this locus as the most appropriate forum for debate.
However, it's all begun as a result of transportation-related issues, and I think there's general agreement that the department responsible is the transport, infrastructure, and communities department, the minister and therefore his department, but it was born out of a desire to move the transportation issue along.
It's not for me to judge whether the motion was appropriately crafted in order to ensure that it focused directly on the specific responsibility of one minister and one department, because as you can see, even with the amendment proposed by Mr. Allison, it tried to capture as many of the issues as possible in a motion based on principle, the principle being that with respect to issues related to transportation technology that it be dealt with, keeping in mind the interests of Canadians--and it doesn't matter where they live--and that those transportation issues be held front and centre by the department and the minister responsible.
So that really is the intent of the mover of motion 183, that it come to this committee rather than to any other.
I suspect, Mr. Jean, that while your observation may have merit, all the other committees are probably going to say that they're sorry but they are going to wash their hands of this one too, because it's not really all theirs. There isn't a precision associated with a bill, with legislation that's passed in the House, and I acknowledge that. I grant that, and I dare say that perhaps Mr. Allison, who may wish to speak to it, because he moved the amendment, may even agree, but it doesn't really advance the issue for us to put it off to another day. That's why I gave Mr. Masse and Monsieur Laframboise a little bit of flexibility and the background for having this discussion as to why this should come to this committee and nowhere else.
If it's a motion that was deemed by the House to be worthy of consideration and voted upon, then it has to end up in a particular place, and I dare say that the best place for it would be with this committee.
Does it have to be done at our very next meeting? I've already acknowledged on behalf of Mr. Boshcoff and Mr. Allison that we'll take it in accordance to the schedule that we have already definitively planned out and that we have implicitly accepted.
Mr. Jean, I don't think we need to discuss it down the road. We simply accept the principle that I laid out for you: that is, that we have this motion that received the unanimous support of the House; it seems to be focused more on transportation than other issues; and it's not going to impinge on the schedule from this committee. We accept it on that basis, or not.