Teamster Canada Rail Conference: Don Ashley

Don Ashley is the new National Legislative Director for the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) and one of his primary concerns is safety for the members of his union and for the public. He has spent his life since college as a railway worker. He started as a trainman, progressed to conductor, then went on to become an engineer.

He also brings with him a wealth of experience in the field of government relations. Over the last 25 years, he has been elected to legislative positions at the division, provincial executive and national levels where he advocated for members in the areas of Worker’s Compensation, Employment Insurance, Canada Pension Plan and Health and Safety Tribunals. He also sat as a side person on the Board of Referees for Service Canada, sat on the board of directors for the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers and was involved with the Ontario Federation of Labour and the Canadian Labour Congress.

“This has allowed me to make strong alliances in the labour movement,” Ashley says, which he anticipates will aid his tasks including helping rebuild solidarity throughout the TCRC.

He plans to refocus on the goals and objectives of members but says his intent has not really changed since the beginning. “We have always wanted to improve members’ lives by making the job safer and addressing work-life balance,” he says. “We also need to protect rights and privacy,” which he anticipates could become an issue in future.

Like many railroaders, he is concerned about fatigue. “It impairs the ability to react.” In the event of mechanical breakdown or any other potential accident scenario, employees, who are also at risk and may have to act as emergency first responders, need to be alert and not overtired.

“We can improve equipment to make railways safer, but we always have to remember that people are the ones running the trains.”