Alstom has effectively prohibited GO Train workers from helping victims of collisions with trains.
Toronto, January 30, 2024 – Alstom, the company operating Ontario’s GO Train service, issued a new policy late last year effectively prohibiting GO Train workers from exiting a train to assist or provide first aid to victims of collisions with trains. The policy change is meant to reduce the likelihood of workers developing psychological trauma. But at the same time, the company is also cutting mental health supports available to workers.
The union representing GO Train workers, the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC), believes Alstom is putting lives at risk. The union has filed a grievance and is fighting the policy shift.
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“Seconds count in an emergency. But with this new policy, Alstom is effectively restraining our members from providing potentially life-saving first aid and assistance to victims of collisions with GO Trains. Tying our hands unnecessarily endangers human life,” said the General Chairman of TCRC Division 660, Gregory Vaughan.
“To make matters worse, pinpointing a victim’s exact location can be difficult without exiting the train. That’s because trains cannot immediately stop after a collision when travelling at full speed. Delays in the arrival of emergency services, in what are often time-sensitive scenarios, could lead to grave consequences,” added the union leader.
GO Transit serves an area covering over 11,000 sq km. When collisions occur in more remote areas, union members report it can sometimes take over 30 minutes for first responders to arrive.
The change was part of a sweeping overhaul to Alstom’s policy on Traumatic Mental Stress. Among other changes, the company is also cutting mental health supports, including:
- Reducing the number of days off without loss of wages for workers involved in collisions, from seven to three.
- Replacing immediate mental health counselling by an interview with a manager (the interview is meant to gather facts to absolve responsibility from Alstom for the collision).
“Alstom is asking workers to avoid helping collision victims under the guise of protecting their mental health, while simultaneously reducing mental health support available to these very workers. This policy creates a lose-lose-lose situation: increased risk for the public, worse conditions for workers, and potentially more complex trauma cases for Alstom and the health system to handle,” said Vaughan.
At over 135,000 members, Teamsters Canada is the country’s largest transportation and supply chain union. It’s also the largest union in the federally regulated private sector. The organization represents workers at CP, CN, UPS, Purolator, countless trucking companies, and more. They are affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents over 1.2 million workers in North America.
Director of Public Affairs, Teamsters Canada