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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » VIA Locomotive Engineer Strike

   
Author Topic: VIA Locomotive Engineer Strike
Gilbert B Norman
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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).

Canadian Press courtesy of Canoe CA

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.

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royaltrain
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The latest news from both the Union and Via is not good. Via has already been cancelling trains including tonight’s (23/Jul) Canadian. Even if the strike does not materialize, many people are going to be inconvenienced. I just came back from Quebec City lucky to have missed these disruptions.

On Amtrak's website they are silent about the Maple Leaf. Via has already cancelled service effective tomorrow the 24th within Canada, but Amtrak does not say anything about continued service in New York state. During the summer GO transit are running special trains to Niagara Falls Ont., so it would be possible to take a GO train to N.Falls Ont. taxi across the border to N. Falls N.Y. and connect from there.

I am surprised about Cascade service to Vancouver BC since that is an Amtrak, not Via, operation. What is happening to the Adirondack? Any information? Since I believe that Amtrak operates that train into Montreal's Central Station

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Gilbert B Norman
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It is my understanding that the inbound 69 Adirondack equipment may be turned at Montreal by a VIA Engineer for next day 68, as the Amtrak Train and Engine crew need a full 8 hours rest under Hours of Service. However, if "for the duration' Amtrak is to assemble a bi-directional consist of #44XXX Amfleet cars with locomotives at either end, then the need to turn the equipment Montreal is obviated.

At their website, Amtrak is not accepting any interline reservations for 63 (24).

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zephyr
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I'm currently in Zip Code 5 (at a secret location in the Twin Cities area not to be disclosed to Mr. TwinStarRocket) heading for Toronto. I'm booked on the Canadian to Vancouver 7/25.

Via has emailed me stating the train is cancelled, then later emailed me to disregard that email, and then emailed me to say the train is cancelled. Their website currently doesn't list it as cancelled. Has Amtrak taken over Via's customer service operations?

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PullmanCo
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Mr Zephyr,

No... the ghost of Ben Biaggini of the Southern Pacific has been discovered in the VIA reservations center [Wink]

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SilverStar092
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Sorry to hear about your travel problems, Mr. Zephyr. We got off the Canadian in Toronto 2 weeks ago and I'm so glad we missed this strike. About 17 years ago we learned of a looming Amtrak strike while on VIA's Ocean on the way to Montreal where we connected to the Adirondack. When we got off the Adirondack at Penn Station, the strike was an hour from starting and nobody was available to explain anything. All we could find out was our Night Owl train (with NYP-WAS sleeper) was cancelled and we had to find our own transport. We finally rented a car and drove to some point in NJ for the night then on the Washington. After waiting the strike out for 2 days we headed home on the Silver Star. These things are never fun and I hope it is resolved soon.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Here is coverage as of a few hours ago by the Canadian Press (courtesy Google News):

http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5h7-dUafhZJuxde-8RLsgRUBuAu8g

Brief passage:

  • MONTREAL — Thousands of travellers across the country will likely need to find another way to get to their destinations if they are travelling by train.

    Locomotive engineers at Via Rail appear to be headed for a strike today after the collapse of negotiations with the rail service.

    The company said barring a last minute resolution, it will cancel all service across the country at noon ET, the deadline set by the engineers for a settlement.

    Via, which carries nearly 12-thousand passengers a day, had already cancelled some departures this week in anticipation of a walkout - including trains leaving early this morning from Halifax.

    The 340 engineers are represented by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference union and have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2006.
From a rewiew of the website, as of a few moments ago, the interchange of 63(24) to VIA at Canadian Border (Amtrak Location Code CBN) remains embargoed, however 69(24) will operate to Montreal. The status of 510(24) is less clear; the site reports Sold Out, however the train may simply be just that.

As of this writing, if "down in the States", I'd be saying "there's still time, Brother". However, there has been enough informed discussion here to suggest that Canadian labor disputes are not resolved at Eleventh Hour, and that if this one was to be, it would have been so by now.

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TwinStarRocket
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Zephyr, I have added extra surveillance at the airports and Zip 5 border crossings. You may not escape as easily as you think.
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royaltrain
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Amtrak has now published a Service Alert if you try to book a NYP to Toronto seat on the Maple Leaf. It now says beginning July 25 Train 63 will terminate at Niagara Falls NY, and beginning July 25 #64 will originate in Niagara Falls NY, no bus connections to Toronto will be provided.

The alert also says that the Adirondack trains 68 and 69 operating NYP to Montreal and the Cascades trains 510 and 517 operating Seattle to Vancouver BC will not be affected by the strike and will operate according to the published schedules.

Amtrak said their information was current as of July 23, 2009.

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Gilbert B Norman
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They've walked
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zephyr
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Mr. Rocket, I slipped by your security forces and escaped from Zip 5 with nary a mosquito bite.

And now I set in the Fairmont Royal Dork lobby trying to figure out how to get home. All Via trains are cancelled (the station arrival/departure boards say as much, but add that they are all "on time"). TV remote vans and other media reporters are en force in front of the station. Wifey was interviewed for raido, and we almost made it on TV (bumped for an update on a lengthy strike by city workers). Jeez, they love their strikes around here.

I think we'll head to a Jays game tonight and sort out our plans over beers and brats.

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royaltrain
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In Toronto we seem to be hit every few years by some sort of strike. Currently most of the city workers are on strike which means no garbage pick-up in much of the city, no ferries to Toronto islands and various other disruptions. So If it is not government workers on strike, then it is Via, or the TTC, or GO transit, or the post office (although not for many years now) then the airlines and who knows what other industrial sectors that I can't recall. All of the above have gone on strike at various times in the past, and I have no doubt will do so again sometime in the future.
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Gilbert B Norman
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As noted at another topic, at least so far as the public is concerned, "It's over".

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:

quote:
"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!

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. Presumably 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.

Posts: 9388 | From: Clarendon Hills, IL USA (BNSF Chicago Sub MP 18.71) | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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