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Canadian Pacific railroad cutting jobs in Thief River Falls

Canadian Pacific railroad has furloughed approximately 30 workers in recent months from its operation in Thief River Falls, according to union officials.

The job cuts are among roughly 90 furloughs at CP sites across Minnesota that the United Transportation Union has counted since October 2012, part of what the union says are aggressive job cuts that followed leadership changes in the company at that time.

“We’re not happy about it,” said P.J. Qualy, UTU Minnesota legislative director.

A CP spokesman would not confirm any job cuts, citing company policy.

“It is our policy to keep matters such as human resources decisions internal. We communicate any needed staffing changes directly to our employees,” said a statement from the company emailed to the Herald.

“We adjust staffing levels according to business ebbs and flows,” said spokesman Andy Cummings.

According to Qualy, the furloughs have affected conductors and switchmen in Thief River Falls. Some engineers have been reassigned to conductor jobs there, too, which is a loss of seniority, he said.

Qualy said some of the furloughed workers may come back to work if there is a need for them, but “chances are, a lot of these guys will never come back.”

Cuts elsewhere

Other furloughs in Minnesota include 50 in St. Paul and 10 in Glenwood, according to Qualy. Union officials were not aware of any job losses in North Dakota.

Qualy and other union members attributed the layoffs to moves made by an investment group and major stakeholder that prompted management changes in the company in 2012. Since then, CP’s profits and efficiency measures have soared while its workforce has been cut down.

According to CP’s second quarter earnings report, released July 24, the company’s net income for the period was $252 million, up from $103 million in the second quarter of 2012. Its operating ratio, the share of revenue going toward operations, was an all-time low 71.9 percent.

The company’s workforce at the end of the quarter was 16,053, down 18 percent from 19,505 in 2012, according to the statement.

Safety concerns

Qualy said the job reductions have created dangerous safety problems for CP workers.

“Safety margins are stretched too thin,” he said. “They’re working loads of overtime. Something’s got to give.”

CP’s earnings report stated its injury rate in the first two quarters of 2013 was 1.51 per 200,000 employee-hours, an increase of 22 percent from 2012. It had 1.91 train accidents per million miles, up 26 percent.

The company announced new safety standards in July following a disaster in Quebec where the derailment of a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train hauling crude oil killed at least 47 people.

Christopher Bjorke | Grand Forks Herald

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