Rebuilding Relations?

A Canadian pacific locomotive at a road crossing near the town of red deer alberta in november 2016 after a recent snow fall. Railway crossings are a safety

One of the fundamental principles of labour relations is the focus on the relationship between labour and management. When this relationship is effective both parties are able to work through difficult issues in order to find constructive solutions that move the relationship and the organization forward. But when this relationship is ineffective both parties end up in polarized, oppositional positions that result in the stagnation of positive movement forward, possibly leading to organizational destruction.

Canadian Pacific (CP) Railways provides us with an excellent case study of the organizational turmoil caused by a difficult labour relations environment.

Click here to access a CBC report, which includes an extensive interview with the CEO of CP Railways.

As noted in this piece, the new CEO Keith Creel faces a significant challenge to repair the relationship with the union as a result of four years of layoffs, strikes and labour relations turmoil. On one hand, the CEO was able to achieve great success through organizational restructuring resulting in exceptional profits. On the other, the price of these profits came at the expense of serious damage to the labour relations environment and its workers.

Success for the future of this Canadian company seems to rest with the willingness of the CEO to acknowledge past labour relations mistakes and to put positive measures into place that are reflective of the need for change. The union, as noted in the article, has responded with cautious optimism depending on the continuing actions that will unfold as directed by this particular executive.

However, clearly if these measures continue to have a negative impact on this relationship, we will see this iconic Canadian railway juggernaut, once again, derailed.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are the positional perspectives that the CEO is promoting in this piece?
  2. What are the positional perspectives that the union is defending in this piece?
  3. What message is the CEO sending by relaxing some of the policies noted in the article?
  4. Why is the CP Railway logo important?