TEAMSTERS CALL ON OTTAWA TO STEP UP TRACK AND EQUIPMENT INSPECTIONS AS
PROXY BATTLE HEATS UP TO OUST ENTIRE BOARD OF DIRECTORS AND SENIOR
OTTAWA, Jan. 10, 2012 /CNW/ - With millions of Canadians living within
kilometres of CP Rail's main tracks and a preoccupied CP management
team admitting its winter contingency plans fell short last winter,
Teamsters Canada is calling on Transport Canada to be more vigilant
than ever with safety inspections as the board of directors engage in a
nasty proxy battle for control of the company.
"Running a railroad is serious business, especially in the harsh winter
months," says William Brehl, president of the Teamsters Canada Rail
Conference, Maintenance of Way Employees Division, and a member of
Transport Canada's Advisory Council on Railway Safety. "Mistakes not
only cause loss of revenue, they can also cost loss of life and
destruction of property. CP's upper management has already admitted
their contingency plans fell short in 2011 and that was before they
were distracted by shareholders shining a light on their inadequacies.
Let's hope that their announcements of being better prepared this year
are not just a shell game to appease investors."
Of the historical Canadian railway in the midst of turmoil at the top,
he adds: "Even though all CP employees have a huge stake in the future
of CP, we are refraining from taking sides in the current squabbling
between CP's board of directors and its shareholders, namely activist
investor Pershing Square which has accumulated 14.2 per cent of the
shares and launched the proxy battle. We are praying that CP's board
and upper management concentrate on keeping the trains on the track
instead of worrying about their severance packages."
At the core of Pershing's proxy battle is CP's operating ratio (or
operating expenses as a percentage of revenue) which is the worst of
the Big Six railways in North America. In presentations to the CP board
and publicly released letters, Pershing believes it can make CP more
efficient. "The double whammy of that is that CP Rail also had one of
the worst personal injury safety records last year, as well as a
history of dangerous commodity derailments causing evacuations and
death," Mr. Brehl says. "This could be linked to CP's previous attempts
at lowering their operating ratio and if so, the pressure being put on
them now could create a very dangerous environment."
"As a person committed to the labour movement, I certainly don't see
eye-to-eye with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government. But as a
railroader, I must acknowledge that his government has tried to right
some of the wrongs of previous governments when it comes to lax safety
regulations that have put Canadians' safety at risk. We urge the
government and Transport Canada to be more vigilant than ever over the
next months to ensure CP Rail is running the railway in a safe manner
and not cutting corners in the name of shareholder value and
efficiency," Mr. Brehl says.
Teamsters Canada Rail Conference Maintenance of Way Employees Division
(TCRC-MWED), a division of Teamsters Canada, represents more than 4,000
maintenance of way workers at CP Rail and almost two dozen short line
railroads. Its members are involved in inspecting, monitoring and
repairing the tracks, bridges and structures on the network.
TCRC-MWED's mission is to make sure that the railway is safe, in spite
of any economic, managerial or other obstacles.
SOURCE TEAMSTERS CANADA RAIL CONFERENCE, MAINTENANCE OF WAY EMPLOYEES DIVISION
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