Locked-out employees of the Southern Railway of B.C. released a video recently showing the company’s managers operating a train with no headlights in thick fog on Annacis Island.
The video shows a train rolling at a crossing just off the Annacis Channel bridge with no headlights or front ditch lights on, despite thick fog, after 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 13.
“This video raises concern about people with less experience running trains during the lockout,” CUPE Local 7000 president Bill Magri said in a media release. “If this kind of thing keeps happening, someone is going to get hurt.”
Sections 17 and 19 of Canadian Rail Operating Rules – Signals Operations require that headlights and ditch lights be kept on at all times during a crossing.
CUPE 7000 has reported other incidents to the Safety Authority since the lockout began, the union release states.
On Jan. 5, Southern Railway locked out 126 members of CUPE Local 7000 following the union’s rejection of its final offer, a concessions-filled package that the union says fails to address its health and safety concerns. Since then, the trains have been operated by approximately 20 of the company’s 34 managers.
“They need to drop the concessions and negotiate a fair collective agreement so that we can get these trains running properly again by the people who know how to operate them and stop putting public safety at risk,” Magri said in the release.
Frank Butzelaar, Southern Railway president, said the employee involved in the video incident acknowledged it was a mistake.
“The light was off for a very brief period of time while he changed directions of the locomotives,” Butzelaar said. “I can assure you at no time was the public at risk. There was an employee positioned on the front platform of the leading locomotive, and that employee was in constant communication with the engineer.
“A lot is being made out of this. It was a rules violation, but we are going to handle it, just like we handle any other situation like that,” he said.
The company is servicing about 50 per cent of its customers in the face of the labour dispute, Butzelaar said.
Meanwhile, there have been no discussions between the union and the company since the lockout began, he added.
Southern Rail’s main facility is the port at Annacis Island.