CP focused on smoothing ruffled feathers with employees

The top executive at Canadian Pacific Railway says he is committed to building a stronger relationship with railway employees.

In an April 19 conference call with investors, president Keith Creel acknowledged that relations with the company’s unionized workers have suffered over the past few years as the company has taken steps to lower operating costs and increase efficiencies.

Creel’s comments coincided with a new five-year labour agreement that was ratified last week by the United Steelworkers union.

The steel workers agreement covers approximately 600 administrative and intermodal employees in CP’s Canadian workforce.

“Over the last four years, we’ve had some feathers that have been ruffled,” Creel said.

“So part of my focus has been to reconnect with our employees and also to reconnect with our labour unions to ensure the things that we maybe didn’t get right in the past, we can get right as we move forward.”

The five-year agreement with the United Steelworkers Local 1976 includes wage increases of two percent per year.

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It also allows for additional wage increases of .5 to one percent per year in the fourth and fifth years of the agreement, contingent on improvements in CP revenues.

The agreement takes effect Jan. 1, 2018, and expires on Dec. 31, 2022.

Creel also acknowledged efforts aimed at improving relations with the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC).

However, he defended the company’s past decisions related to labour, suggesting that steps needed to be taken to ensure the company’s well-being.

“We’ve driven a tremendous amount of change to restore the health of the company. What we were doing before (in terms of labour costs) was not sustainable,” he said.

Creel said he is confident CP will reach an agreement with TCRC members whose contracts are due to expire at the end of the year, including maintenance workers and train running staff.

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The railway has now negotiated long-term labour deals with six of its seven Canadian unions.

CP reported first quarter revenues of $1.6 billion, up one percent from the first quarter of 2016.

Grain volumes were up nine percent compared to the first quarter last year, despite weather–related challenges that affected grain movement.

The company is projecting steady bulk volumes throughout the second quarter, specifically in grain and potash.

Contact brian.cross@producer.com

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