CALGARY - Investors are welcoming a new plan by Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. to drive down costs, while a union representing 5,000 of its employees is awaiting more details on major job cuts.
Shares in the Calgary-based company (TSX:CP) closed up about four per cent to $96.82 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, marking a new 52-week high.
Shareholders are reacting to a presentation by new CP chief executive Hunter Harrison on Tuesday evening outlining his vision for the troubled railroad.
The most striking change will be a 23-per-cent reduction in the railway's 19,500-member workforce by 2016.
About 1,700 of the 4,500 cuts are expected to take place by year-end.
Much of the reduction is expected to come through attrition as older workers retire and aren't replaced.
Canadian Pacific management has yet to meet with the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, which represents conductors, yardmen, locomotive engineers and railway traffic controllers, the union said in a release Wednesday.
"It is difficult for us to evaluate the scope of the decision," said TCRC president Doug Finnson. "We will wait to meet with management to find out the details, and will reserve comment until later."
In May, that group of Teamsters workers, known as running trades, walked off the job for nine days before Ottawa forced them back to work.
The stoppage took place just days after shareholders voted to oust then-CEO Fred Green after a bitter proxy contest launched by the railway's biggest shareholder, Pershing Square Capital Management.
But it was about a month before Harrison, Pershing Square's pick for Green's replacement, was formally appointed CEO.
"We have good relationships with most of our organizations. I can tell you that the Teamsters, from a running trades standpoint, is not my favourite group right now," Harrison said as he discussed his plans for CP with investors in New York on Wednesday.
"I wasn't here then, but right before my arrival, as far as I'm concerned, they kicked this company when it was down."
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Labour Day: A Canadian Invention
Few Canadians realize it, but Labour Day is as Canadian as maple bacon. It all began in 1872, when the Toronto Typographical Union went on strike to demand a nine-hour workday. When <i>Globe and Mail</i> chief George Brown had the protest organizers arrested, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald passed a law legalizing labour unions. Thus, a Conservative prime minister became a hero to the working class, and Canada became among the first countries to limit the workday, doing so decades before the U.S. The typographers' marches became an annual event, eventually being adopted by the U.S., becoming the modern day Labour Day.
The Winnipeg General Strike
The end of World War I brought social instability and economic volatility to Canada. On May 15, 1919, numerous umbrella union groups went out on strike in Winnipeg, grinding the city to a halt. Protesters were attacked in the media with epithets such as "Bolshevik" and "Bohunk," but resistance from the media and government only strengthened the movement. In June, the mayor ordered the Mounties to ride into the protest, prompting violent clashes and the death of two protesters. After protest leaders were arrested, organizers called off the strike. But the federal mediator ended up ruling in favour of the protesters, establishing the Winnipeg General Strike as the most important strike in Canadian history, and a precursor to the country's modern labour movement.
The Regina Riot
During the Great Depression, the only way for a single male Canadian to get government assistance was to join "relief camps" -- make-work projects set up by the federal government out of concern idle young men were a threat to the nation. The relief camps, with their poor work conditions, became breeding grounds for communists and other radicals. The "On-To-Ottawa Trek" was organized as a protest that would move from Vancouver across the country to Ottawa, to bring workers' grievances to the prime minister. The trek halted in Regina when Prime Minister R.B. Bennett promised to talk to protest organizers. When talks broke down, the RCMP refused to allow the protesters to leave Regina and head for Ottawa, and on June 26, 1935, RCMP riot officers attacked a crowd of protesters. More than 100 people were arrested and two killed -- one protester and one officer.
In May, 1938, unemployed men led by communist organizers occupied a post office and art gallery in downtown Vancouver, protesting over poor work conditions at government-run Depression-era "relief camps." In June, the RCMP moved in to clear out the occupiers, using tear gas inside the post office. The protesters inside smashed windows for air and armed themselves with whatever was available. Forty-two people, including five officers, were injured. When word spread of the evacuation, sympathizers marched through the city's East End, smashing store windows. Further protests against "police terror" would be held in the weeks to come.
Giant Mine Bombing
In 1992, workers at Royal Oak Mines' Giant Mine in the Northwest Territories went on strike. On September 18, a bomb exploded in a mineshaft deep underground, killing nine replacement workers. Mine worker Roger Warren was convicted of nine counts of second-degree murder. The Giant Mine closed in 2004.
The Toronto G20
The Canadian Labour Congress, representing numerous labour groups, participated in protests in Toronto during the G20 summit in June, 2010. When a handful of "Black Block" anarchists rioted through the city core, it brought an overwhelming police response that resulted in the largest mass arrests in Canadian history. More than 1,000 people were arrested, with most never charged with any crime. Numerous allegations of police brutality have been made, and the Toronto police are now the target of several multi-million dollar lawsuits. So far, two police officers have been charged with crimes relating to G20 policing, and charges against other police officers are also possible.
When Vancouver-based magazine Adbusters suggested the public "occupy Wall Street" to protest corporate malfeasance, New Yorkers took the suggestion seriously, and occupied Zuccotti Park in Manhattan. Canadians followed suit, sparking copycat occupations in all major Canadian cities in September, 2011. By December, most of the occupations had been cleared, all of them non-violently. Though the protests achieved no specific goals, they did change the political conversation in North America. What their long-term legacy will be remains to be seen.