Sunday, July 26, 2009

VIA Strike Over - Issues Unresolved

At least so far as the public is concerned, "It's over":

www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20090726/via_rail_090726/20090726?hub=TopStories

Having been a Labor Relations Officer on a US Class I (I left end of 1981 to enter practice as a Chartered Accountant - CPA down here), I'm of course most interested in the issues that remain unresolved. It would appear that VIA Locomotive Engineers have assigned runs, the issue appears that the men would like a little more time off AT HOME, as distinct from a hotel room that I presume up there also must meet standards of suitable lodging. But any hotel room, be it at the Dive Inn or the Four Seasons, has a way of getting old - fast.

The funny thing is that the media is reporting that VIA Engineers operate in unassigned service, such as (applicable terms down here) pool or "chain gang". Here is applicable brief passage to Canadian Business July 22 material:

"Some of the outstanding issues are linked to VIA's implementation of an antiquated crew utilization procedure designed for freight service which creates uncertainty as to when a locomotive engineer will be required for work'," said Shewchuk. He also acknowledged that wages and benefits remain a major concern but the requests are not outside of the norm in the industry".

Oh well, guess media up there and ours down here have one thing in common - they get it wrong. Of course, if Ellis were still an active journalist, as distinct from holding an administrative position within the Higher Education community in which journalistic skills are a necessity, that statement would be made with less credibility.

However, as I noted above, the carrier has not set forth publicly their position in this dispute; their only 'face' seems to be their PR gal (note I did not refer to her as 'Spin Lady") who has used her airtime (rightly I think) addressing passenger inconvenience issues.

But I do think that VIA Engineers in service anywhere outside the Quebec-Windsor Corridor must accept that VIA is a tri-weekly operation, and such will result in long layovers away from home. There is simply no way to avoid it, and it must further be accepted that operational efficiency, if even possible with tri-weekly frequency, results with establishing runs for as long as you can lawfully run. Sure, passenger service gives you predictability with your life, i.e. you know more or less when you are going to go, but it comes at the cost of the long layovers. Hopefully, any Engineer desiring to hire on (presume VIA recruits amongst Rules Qualified Engineers with CN) is aware of this unavoidable operating practice.

I sincerely hope that both parties will come together in good faith and work for a resolution! Good Luck to all concerned.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Possible VIA Strike July 24

There is some possibly that VIA Locomotive Engineers will strike systemwide at 24JUL1700 GMT, or high noon in Toronto tomorrow. There does not appear to be any reportage regarding the issues, but the following outlines the possible impact on the Canadian tourism industry (lest we forget, such comprises a far greater portion of their GNP than it does ours).
Here is a link to the material that was prepared by the Canadian Press:

http://money.canoe.ca/News/Other/2009/07/22/10225266-cp.html

As of a few moments ago Amtrak 63 (24) Maple Leaf, which is interchanged with VIA at Niagra Falls for continuation to Toronto will operate NY-Niagra Falls, but has been embargoed for interchange with VIA. #69 (24) Adirondack will operate as scheduled NY-Montreal.

However 510 (24) Pacific International shows "sold out" Seattle to Vancouver, but that seats are available Seattle to Bellingham. Possibly the Superliner equipment is handled (wyed) at Vancouver by a VIA Engineer (the Amtrak T&E must be afforded a respite if they are to make it home under Hours of Service) and it is not practical to assemble a bi-directional consist, i.e. Talgo equipment.

Now it is a case of "the jury's still out'; but be it noted there is a long history of having labor disputes, rail and others, resolved during the Eleventh Hour. After all, neither party wants to appear to their constituencies as having backed down and a timely and orderly settlement would lay either open to criticism of having done just that.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Inevitable - Proposed Michigan Cuts

"Conveniently" released to the media during the Holiday weekend, as well as during the 'all Michael all the time" deluge, is an Associated Press report that Michigan is proposing "cuts' with nature and scope not specifically identified to the State funded Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water and Chicago-Grand Rapids Pere Marquette trains. The 'three a day' Chicago-Detroit-Pontiac Wolverines are 100% Federally funded and not affected.

This was inevitable; Michigan is "broke": on that same note, I am astounded that there have been no other service cuts proposed in "nearly as broke' California and Illinois.