Slumping economy forces Canadian Pacific Railway layoffs
Source: By Annie McLeod, Leader-Post
Published: July 2nd 2009

REGINA A slumping economy and less traffic on its rail lines have forced Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) to lay off employees across the country, including Saskatchewan.

Mike LoVecchio, spokesman for CP, said there are almost 2,700 CP employees across the country who are currently laid off. Since January, approximately 100 people have been laid off in Saskatchewan, and the layoffs were consistent throughout the first six months of the year.

"That is a general reflection of much lower traffic activity on the rail line, which is an indication of the economy," he said, noting the layoffs began last year when the economy declined. "What we try to do is match capacity and demand, and so obviously as demand has fallen, capacity too has fallen, and that requires fewer employees ... to operate the trains."

Nationally, LoVecchio said on a year-over-year basis, traffic on CP's lines is down 23 per cent in May, compared to the same month last year. The resulting layoffs have occurred throughout CP's network of employees, but most are focused on train operations.

"Fewer trains means fewer locomotive engineers and conductors are required. It means, because there's less wear and tear on the track, that fewer track maintenance (employees are required)," he said. "There is an effect throughout the company, it doesn't single out one particular employee group over another."

However, as rail traffic increases, LoVechhio said the laid off employees will be called back to work.

Dave Able, Teamsters Canada Rail Conference general chairman of CP western lines, who represents CP workers from Thunder Bay to Vancouver Island, said that in June last year, there were 3,225 people working throughout his region a peak in the number of workers, going back to the '90s. In June this year, that number had dropped to 2,275 workers.

"What we've been told is that the potash industry is not shipping, and of course the auto market is down, and that's a big part of our business," said Able. He also noted that the coal industry in British Columbia had been decimated, and is only now starting to pick up again. "If the work's there, the people come back. If it's not there, we don't."

As far as he knows, the workers have not been told if or when they will get called back to work. However, when asked if he worries about further layoffs, Able said he thinks CP has bottomed out and is hopeful that business is going to pick up again.

"The government's trying with the autos, I guess, and we just have to wait for the grain the crop year will hopefully help and the potash will hopefully get going again," he said.