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CN Rail on hiring spree after being surprised by laid off workers passing on jobs


Montreal, QC — Canadian National Railways is on a hiring spree particularly in Western Canada, several years after a slowdown in demand prompted layoffs.

The country’s largest railway says it hopes to add more than 600 conductors and crew members in the coming months after fewer laid-off workers than expected chose to return following a lengthy idle period.

CN Rail has seen its train speeds drop as it hasn’t had sufficient number of crews to handle the increased demand prompted by a stronger North American economy.

“Operating crews have proven to be our biggest challenge,” chief operating officer Mike Cory said during a conference call about third-quarter results after markets closed.

He said fluidity of trains and resulting operating profits are impossible without the appropriate staffing. Hirings are strongest in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

“What we’re doing now is really catching up in some areas where we got a little surprised by the return rate from people laid off,” he told analysts.

The Montreal-based company said it has ramped up hiring and training. It expects to have 250 people qualified in the fourth quarter and another 400 in the first quarter of 2018.

The railway had on average 23,183 employees at the end of the quarter, including 16,346 in Canada and 7,082 in the United States. About 73 per cent are unionized in Canada and 79 per cent in the U.S.

CN Rail said in early 2016 that its workforce decreased by nine per cent or 2,300 in 2015, with about 1,150 employees laid off at year’s end.

The railway had said that a natural attrition rate of close to eight per cent annually would give it flexibility to hire or not depending on market conditions.

It said Tuesday it remains on track to see its profits grow as demand has continued to increase after six quarters of decrease.