December 2, 2004
CHICAGO (Dec. 2)—The UTU Illinois Legislative Board has filed a Formal Complaint with the Illinois Commerce Commission over the failure of the Canadian Pacific Railway to provide adequate shelter facilities for switching crews working the West End of the carrier’s Bensenville Yard.
The union’s Complaint, which was assigned Docket No. T04-0082, petitions the Commission under section 1545.200 of the Illinois Administrative Code to order CP to construct a shelter facility, which at a minimum, contains adequate restrooms, a lunchroom/break area and sufficient lockers for use by the engineers and switchmen working in the West Yard.
In UTU’s Complaint to the Commission, the Illinois Legislative Board’s counsel, Timothy Lapp, noted that up until approximately seven years ago, CP provided a full-service shelter facility – one that contained a locker room, restrooms, showers and a lunchroom – for switching crews at the West End of Bensenville, a 3-mile-long classification yard just south of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.
After the full-service shelter was demolished, Lapp said, the railroad replaced it with a trailer that performed only some of its functions. The trailer contained male and female rest rooms and lunch room/break room for engineers and switchmen, but it no longer offered lockers or shower facilities.
However, when UTU complained to the Commission regarding the decrepit and unsanitary conditions at Bensenville, rather that make the improvements at the West End shelter as requested by Commission Inspector Robert Waggoner, CP simply removed the facility, leaving crews with nothing at that location, and ordered them to use the General Yard Office building more than a mile away for functions formerly performed at the West End.
“That is the essence of our Complaint,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “Under Sections 1545.110(c) (1) and 1545.120 of the Illinois Administrative Code, the carrier must provide its switch crews with adequate toilet and washing facilities which are conveniently located for the employees’ use. That is the exact language of the rule: ‘conveniently located for the employees’ use.’
“We think a strong case can be made that a shelter facility is necessary at this location and that the facilities in the General Yard Office are not conveniently located,” Szabo said, noting that the GYO is located in the center of East and West Yards more than one mile away.
“It is a totally separate work location and past Commission Orders have established clear precedent that a shelter facility must be located conveniently to where the work is regularly performed,” he said.
Szabo said that the railroad is trying to utilize a technicality to circumvent the intent of the Code.
“Full facilities containing locker rooms and showers are mandatory at all locations where crews report for or are relieved for duty,” he said. “What CP did was to change the reporting location from the West Yard to the General Yard Office, and they now cab yard crews to and from the work location at the West End. Not only is that irregular, but it doesn’t eliminate the fact that facilities must also be ‘adequate and convenient’ for the employees. Nor does it eliminate the Union’s right to petition the Commission for a shelter facility where employees believe one is necessary.”
Szabo said that the union would be taking a ‘wait and see’ approach to other elements of his March 2004 complaint to the ICC about conditions throughout Bensenville Yard.
“CP is currently demolishing the old ‘full service’ facility at the East End and replacing it with a new lunch room and restrooms,” he stated.
“While I’m a little concerned about its adequacy, we welcome the new East End facility and will determine its effectiveness in meeting the needs of the employees once it is put into use,” he said. “Likewise, I’m satisfied so far with the improvement CP has shown regarding the overall sanitation of its facilities at Bensenville.
“We can always return with an additional filing to the Commission if we are not satisfied in the future,” Szabo said. “All we need now is an adequate shelter facility on the West End. And we will leave it to an ICC Administrative Law Judge to resolve that question.”