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March 25, 2015

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Union files safety complaint as Southern Railway pays untrained civilian to flag at busy crossing

BURNABY—The Canadian Union of Public Employees has filed a complaint with the BC Safety Authority after managers for Southern  Railway were seen paying an untrained civilian what appears to be $5 to flag traffic at a busy railway crossing at Scott Road in Surrey late Monday afternoon.

The union has sworn statements from witnesses, along with video footage and photographs taken by locked out CUPE 7000 members, which indicate that a man not connected to Southern Railway was flagging the crossing during heavy rush hour traffic on Monday. The footage and photos clearly show the man, using a sign that had “Stop” on one side and “Slow” on the other, trying to flag traffic with the full participation of senior Southern Railway managers. One manager is seen paying the man $5.

“Employees protecting a crossing should be qualified in railway safety rules and flagging,” said CUPE National Representative Louise Oetting. “The Southern Railway managers clearly put this person’s safety at risk and need to be held accountable.”

A short time earlier, the same train and crew hit a gate with one of the Engines.  The union is investigating that issue further. Given the hours management has been keeping in an attempt to service customers after locking out their 126 employees, said Oetting, fatigue could be a factor in that incident.

As well as the safety complaint, and a Section 68 replacement worker complaint with the BC Labour Relations Board, CUPE has advised the City of Surrey about the Scott Road flagging incident.

CUPE’s lawyers have written to the municipal councils of Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Surrey, Delta, and New Westminster, advising them that the legally required inspection and maintenance of crossing signals have not been conducted since the lockout began on January 5. This has resulted in a number of crossing signals no longer being operational and requiring crews to manually flag.  In many instances, municipalities bear 100 per cent responsibility for the maintenance of crossings that Southern Railway uses. Thus, they may be exposed to liability in the event of a mishap.

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