Revelstoke-based Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (CP) employees are still awaiting details after CP CEO Hunter Harrison announced sweeping cuts to the rail provider on Dec. 4, including the elimination of 1,700 positions by the end of December and 4,500 employees by 2016.
The cuts total nearly a quarter of CP’s workforce.
However, a Revelstoke-based teamsters representative isn’t overly concerned the changes will amount to any significant cuts in the running trades here because local rail operations focus mainly on moving the trains. So far, major cuts have focused on management, closing four of 10 CP classification yards, as well as cutting contractor numbers.
At an investor meeting in New York on Dec. 4 and 5, CEO Hunter Harrison announced a series of cuts and changes at CP.
The former CN CEO took over the Calgary-based company in July of this year after a shareholder revolt led by U.S. investors deposed former CEO Fred Green. Harrison was widely expected to institute cuts and reforms at CP.
“We have initiated a rapid change agenda and have made tremendous progress in my first 160 days, and we are only getting started,” Harrison said in a statement. “CP has many talented railroaders who want to win. Together we are squarely focused on improved service and becoming the low cost carrier. This will allow us to continue to grow with our customers.”
The plans announced on Dec. 4 include:
– A plan to eliminate 4,500 employee and contractor positions by 2016, totalling about one quarter of the company’s total workforce.
– In statements to the media, Harrison said cuts would target management positions.
– A plan to create new longer rail sidings that will allow for longer trains. This is combined with plans to operate more longer trains.
– Closing of four out of CP’s 10 classification yards. They are the Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Chicago operations.
– A relocation of CP’s corporate headquarters in downtown Calgary to new office space in a rail yard outside of Calgary.
– Reviewing options for sections of the rail network including the Delaware & Hudson line in the U.S. Northeast.
– Exploring the sale of a portion of the other U.S. based sections of the rail network.
A national Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) spokesperson said they are still in the dark about the repercussions for members. “We are waiting with the employer to provide us with details,” said communications director Stéphane Lacroix, adding the teamsters would provide updates when more information became available.
“There will be an impact. It’s unavoidable,” he said.
Doug Finnison is the vice president of the TCRC. “It is difficult for us to evaluate the scope of the decision,” he said. “We will wait to meet with management to find out the details, and will reserve comment until later.”
Revelstoke-based engineer Les Daley is the local Chairman of Engineers with TCRC Division 657: Revelstoke/Golden/Vernon. Like the national representatives, he didn’t have any inside information on the cuts.
He said the Revelstoke area doesn’t have operations like classifications or yard crews, saying most positions in here were essential for moving trains. “We don’t have those types of facilities,” he said. “We just get on trains and go – it doesn’t matter what type of trains they are; so long as the business is going to stay up, then we won’t so much be affected.”
He said longer trains mean fewer crews, but increased volume could potentially counterbalance that.
“In Revelstoke we just basically get on freight trains and move freight trains,” Daley said. “So, they intend to make money [so] we’re going to need to move freight trains through here.”
“I could be proven wrong tomorrow,” he added.
Both Lacroix and Daley said increasing the length of trains and the number of very long trains does pose a potential safety concern, especially given the difficult conditions including grades, snow and cold through the region, which includes the Rogers Pass tunnels.
“We worry about safety because we worry about ourselves and the general public,” Daley said.
Revelstoke also has non-union management staff located in Revelstoke. It’s unknown what the impact will be on those front line management positions.
CP hired 20 new conductor trainees in Revelstoke in September, but their training was put on hold indefinitely before they started.