November 7, 2023 | Circular No. 11598

Dear Member,

You will find attached a presentation on CN’s 2023-2034 winter plan, which was provided to members of our Ontario and West Coast District Committees at a meeting with CN held earlier today.  Highlights of the presentation include the following:

  • CN’s velocity during 2022 and 2023 increased by 30%, reaching the highest levels recorded since 2016.
  • CN maintained overall average train speed of approximately 25 miles per hour throughout the winter of 2022-23.
  • Terminal dwell demonstrated significant improvement compared to the previous three-year average.
  • This winter, CN expects to have an inventory of approximately 1,950 locomotives, which is about the same as in 2022 and 50 more than in 2021.
  • Modernization is planned for up to 60 locomotives in the existing fleet, bringing the total modernized fleet to 110 locomotives.
  • Upgrades to extend the life of locomotives and provide fuel efficiency improvements will lead to a 40 percent increase in reliability and up to a 55 percent increase in pulling power.

Additional details, including as relates to enhancements to rail network reliability and productivity, response readiness, and improved resiliency can be found in the  attached presentation.

The presentation was followed by a question and answer session with members, which included discussion on the following points in particular:

Labour Issues:

  • The contract between CN and its 6,000 unionized engineers and locomotive conductors is due to expire at the end of this year, meaning that the union will be in a legal strike position as of January 1, 2024 (though there is a general expectation that the union is unlikely to withdraw services at such an early stage in the negotiating process).  Although CN would normally have the option of calling on management to provide limited service in the event of a service withdrawal (mostly by filling in for conductors), the government’s intention to pass legislation banning the use of replacement workers in federally regulated workplaces – which is expected to be occur by the end of this year – would take this option off the table.
  • Recent changes to the Canada Labour Code, which give employees in federally-regulated workplaces an additional ten paid sick days per year, will place additional pressure on CN’s workforce.  More specifically, the additional sick days would essentially translate into a 5 percent reduction in the current workforce (giving rise to the need to hire more workers to compensate for this loss).

Infrastructure Projects:

  • Work on the CN logistics hub in Milton, Ontario is progressing well and the facility is expected to be completed sometime in 2026.  Work is also progressing on the construction of a new logistics hub in the Chicago area, which is also slated for completion in 2026.

We are now working to schedule a winter plan meeting with CPKC and will revert to members with a meeting planner once the date has been finalized.


Karen Kancens
Vice President