Minnesota residents should be interested to know that an abrupt reduction in the number of workers that maintain Canadian Pacific tracks will likely result in increased delays. The reduction was precipitated by the railroad company’s management during the restructuring of its Maintenance of Way worker force. The restructuring eliminated and, in some cases, moved essential workers such as welders, utility crews and other crew members that are part of the Maintenance of Way crew.
The Maintenance of Way crew is comprised of professionals whose primary job duties entail building and maintaining railroad tracks, as well as buildings and even bridges for the railroad. The crew reduction is expected to increase the workload of the remaining Maintenance of Way crew members, who were already stretched too thin prior to the restructuring. As a result, the current crews will have to maintain even larger territories than what they are currently maintaining. This will inevitably result in longer response and turn around times to maintain broken rails and potentially result in fatigued railroad workers.
A spokesperson for the company insisted that care is taken to maintain safety and ensure timely and efficient train operation when changes that affect their maintenance crews are made. Reports that the company submitted to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board indicated that during the second week of December, Canadian Pacific had nearly 1600 outstanding car orders that were delayed almost four weeks.
The workers’ union has complained that the changes were made without any consultation with them and was unilaterally executed by the company; as such, the action allegedly was not ratified by the union. Further exacerbating the situation was the fact that the company has been slow to hire enough employees to cover the workload. This left Canadian Pacific with no choice but to hire outside contractors to perform the duties normally fielded by the Maintenance of Way forces.
Source: The Bismarck Tribune, “Union decries decrease in railroad maintenance crews,” Jessica Holdman, Jan. 1, 2015