Canadian National Railway

135 reviews

Canadian National Railway Employee Reviews

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If you've always dreamed of getting paid to hate your life - CN Rail!
Signals Maintainer Apprentice (Current Employee), Prince George, BCAugust 25, 2014
Pros: decent pay, no skills/ knowledge required to advance through into management
Cons: everything else
(To be clear from the outset, there are definitely good people working at CN Rail. Unfortunately, almost none of them are in management.)

CN brings an exciting 19th-century mindset to the 21st-century job market!
As a working-class employee you will serve as an entirely disposable cog in the corporate machine as it railroads its way through pristine water sources and across the pockmarked Canadian landscape.
Any and every small mistake you make will be treated with the utmost attention, guaranteeing plenty of quality time with every supervisor within discernible cell range.
Don't sweat it though, because no matter how badly anyone screws up the share prices will just keep climbing, leaving no substantial reason for anything to ever change in the way things are done on Canada's National Railroad.

Innovation! Every month brings a new way for management to track exactly where you have been and what you have done.

Dedication! Once you buy that lifted truck you've been eyeing up you're basically locked in for life.

Self-Preservation! Hint: it helps if you're jaded before you even start.

Looking for a career that is sure to leave an irremovable mark on your soul? Then look no further than CN Rail!
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Good money, terrible life balance
Train Conductor (Current Employee), Vaughan, ONJanuary 23, 2015
Typical day at work: 8 hours outside in the freezing cold and in order to warm up you must broadcast over the radio that you want to go inside a locomotive to warm up

What I learned: Seniority based promotion is not for me. I would much rather achieve opportunities based on performance.

Management: Frequently "hides" to observe rule compliance and will write you up for minor violations of a rule they may not even understand themselves.

Co-Workers: Some genuinely happy with their job, some obviously depressed but sticking around for the money. Conductors with 20+ years seniority are still unable to hold a job with desirable hours and at the terminal they want.

Hardest part of the job: Demoralizing remarks such as management/traffic coordinators asking "is everything okay over there?" at the slightest delay.

Most enjoyable part of the job: Controlling and riding around on train equipment and the physical aspect of the job. Plenty of exercise.

Although this should be a very rewarding and "cool" out of the ordinary job, this is quickly overshadowed by the sour company culture and the company renegging on union agreements at the first available opportunity.
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Payed well with exemplary benefits and investment opportunity
Freight Conductor (Former Employee), Prince George, BCJune 10, 2015
Pros: Good pay, great people, strong company
Cons: long hours, difficult management system
Very safety driven company as there are no minor injuries when you are dealing with trains and heavy equipment, days range from 8 to 16 hours depending on division and willingness to work, management could use a makeover but many were helpful and friendly, co-workers were awesome, friendly, helpful and upbeat. Hardest part of the job was being called at all hours to cover some other conductor who had called in sick or unavailable, and being away from your family for long stretches. Physically demanding job requiring a lot of upper body strength used for throwing switches and climbing up and around train cars(think monkey bars as a kid for 8 hours a day) with breaks sometimes not coming till the last hour of your work day due to heavy work load and priority of work. I liked the people i worked with, 99% had awesome attitudes and worked hard for the sake of an easier stretch at the end of the day, pay was great, benefits were great, shares in company were great, i would do the job again as it was both literally and figuratively a breath of fresh air.
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Do not take this job if you want a Trade
Heavy Duty Mechanic Apprentice / DEM (Current Employee), Edmonton, ABJuly 15, 2015
Pros: Great people
Cons: Everything else
Regardless of their recruitment you will not get a Red Seal Trade.

I came in with a Blue book and a lot of hours, and when i pushed for school after being promised it during my interview they refused. Even though they had signed my blue book.

Their DEM program is limited to a select few provinces and not in Alberta (where I reside). DEM is not recognized here at all and never will be.

The guys in the shop are awesome save for a select few white hats, But the upper management is horrible.

Yes they provide tools, but good luck getting them.

The Union is useless, good luck getting anywhere with them. Example; Their safety reps have never taken a safety course nor do they know about contacting OHS in the event of problems from management. Their Trades and Apprenticeship reps do not hold tickets nor have they ever picked up a phone to contact the Apprenticeship Board. Its just bad.

But again the people there are awesome to work with.

Great experience though besides the aforementioned, but CN is a very pale shadow compared to its former glory, now that it is for all intensive purposes an American company now.
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Don't expect a fair deal
Assistant Track Supervisor / Road Master (Former Employee), Vancouver, BCOctober 27, 2015
Pros: Excellent benefits package
Cons: Poor people Management and a non-existent work life balance
Although this company is trying to change it's corporate culture it is too mired in the past to make any real gains.
Senior Managers (generally those who have been there 30 years) have a vested interest in keeping costs down as they are financially rewarded for reducing expenditures. The result is a lack of staff and equipment to make the job functional. It is like pulling teeth trying to get the proper tools for the job.
Additionally the management style is stuck in the 1970's. Very shouty. shouty and heavy into a blame culture. The first and most valuable lesson to learn is "trust no-one" (a direct quote from my regional chief).
If you do not want work/life balance and feel you deserve to be punished for things out of your control than apply here.
If you don't want to be on call 24 -7 and want to be able to sleep at night, look elsewhere.
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Good money for single guys. Be prepared to lose your life.
Conductor (Former Employee), Smithers, BCOctober 12, 2012
Pros: 90, 000 to start, 110, 000 by year 2, 130, 000 by year 5
Cons: you'll probably die horribly
Amazing money right off the bat. Good job security. Takes a few years to be totally secure but after about 2 you're set or life. Great pension, but most guys don't live very long after 35 years of graveyards, poor diet, living in hotels, and going through a few wives. I went in thinking it wouldn't be me but here I am divorced and unhealthy, depressed, looking for other work. Thanking god I got out.

By the way some stats: average of 3 people you'll kill in your career, just like any job things go bad and the trains weight upwards of 26,000 tonnes, for the first 2ish years depending on where you work it could be mostly outside, in the mountains, in the wind, in the rain, get the picture, management structure is fire first then maybe ask questions, the union will never let you lose your job no matter how stupid you are.
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CN RAIL = Just a pay cheque, no quality of life EVER
Various (Former Employee), Winnipeg, MBJanuary 4, 2016
Cons: Long hours, shift work your entire career, no family life. Ever.
Everyone talks about how great the pay is when working for this railway... however this company HAS to provide a good wage because otherwise nobody would want to work here. Ever.
Advice: STAY AWAY.

The main problem appears to be very bad/inexperienced management with front line Supervisors having zero experience. Since very few long-term employees want to accept a management position the company is reduced to hiring "off the street". This unfortunately amounts to bad decisions day in and day out with blame for errors or low productivity unfairly being directed to the unionized employees.

With over 30+ years of service with this company I can honestly say that my co-workers were great but the disappointing management has ruined a once great company.
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It was an exellant place to work and has provided me and my family with an happy and exellant lifestyle
Customer service clerk (Former Employee), Prince George, BCJuly 18, 2012
Pros: exellant benefits, worked with a lot of nice people, first aid training, forklift training, class 2 liscense.
Cons: there was a lot of pressure to do the work and on a timely basis, this at times would cause a lot of stress.
The typical day started with a safety meeting and then it was off to work no days were the same. We basically were on our own we new what had to be done and worked hard to get it done. The management expected you to do the job and as long as you did they were happy. My co-workers were good and easy to get along with. The hardest part of the job was at first learning it and then organizing how you were going to do the job in the most effective and timely way. The most enjoyable part of the job was getting it done and done right a sense of accomplishment.

March 10, 2013

Hello there, would you mind explaining about what kind of salary, I should be looking in this job. Your reply will be much appreciated.

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poor company for family orientated person
Rail Car Technician Apprentice (Carman) (Current Employee), Kamloops, BCJanuary 28, 2013
Pros: decent pay
Cons: terrible shifts, poor communication and employee/supervisor relationships
A typical day at work in the CN yard is being constantly monitered by supervisors. They have a rating system in place called p.m.r.c.; they are constantly looking for pmrc failures. If you fail you are automatically sent home no matter what the situation; you are left wondering if you have lost your job. Most new hires have not been trained properly so they are gauranteed to fail one of these. The employees are constantly walking in fear trying to figure out what they did wrong when a supervisor scolds them and the supervisor will not explain the situation. This is a typical weekly occurance at CN. Must work all stats. Legally allowed to take stats off, but scolded when asking to do so.
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Great pay, good job but they own you.
Conductor (Former Employee), Toronto, ONMay 24, 2013
Pros: great pay and benefits, good coworkers, interesting work
Cons: immature management, no job security, highly irregular hours
I worked there over one summer as a conductor trainee. From the first encounter with a trainmaster, I got the feeling I was disposable. I was fired in the fall for the actions of another employee that they mistook as me. No warning and no investigation to my alleged demeanor. My many pleas to the company and union fell on deaf ears despite irrefutable evidence. Every employee at CN can be replaced and they make you know it. Even 30+ year veterans get the boot when they don't tow the company line. Just a warning, never take them lightly, and never give them anything to burn you with. As many in the company say; they'll spend one thousands to train you and the next 30 years trying to fire you.
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It's an interesting place to work and there is a lot of diversity with this job.
Conductor (Current Employee), Saskatoon, SKNovember 12, 2015
Pros: Paid schooling, room for growth, company shares, good pay
Cons: Long hours, high expectations and low reciprocity, difficult managers, absence of a good training program, unfair reprocutions for first time minor mistakes.
CN is for the most part a decent place to work, with all of its pros and cons. However, It would be good to implement some new ideas, maybe give CN a fresh outlook on things. I'd like to stay with CN till I retire but getting laid off all of the time is making that difficult. Not having enough income to survive due to company layoffs is very stressful.
I'd like a better way for employees to be able to look things up in cats or on eportal. When it comes to their current job or when it comes to finding a new one or for anything for that matter.
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Challenging and highly demanding
Assistant Track Supervisor (Current Employee), Toronto, ONNovember 25, 2015
Pros: Good salary and expenses. Company vehicle.
Cons: Long hours in all weather. Forced relocation.
Operating 24 hours a day, the railway doesn't allow for much work/life balance. Safety is critical, and there are severe consiquneces for mistakes. Engineering is extremely complex and critical to safe operating practices. Supervision of Unionized employees isn't difficult, however the rare disiciplinary action that may be required does add tension to an already stressful job. On the whole, the Unionized employees are among the finest and most professional in the industry. Safe, quick, and intelligent.

The best part of the job is in knowing that your inspections and ability to spot defects is preventing derailments, keeping people safe and you're saving lives.
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Get in quick or you'll be on off shifts forever!
Railcar Inspector (Current Employee), Vancouver, BCDecember 22, 2015
Pros: Co workers, different positions to bid, the pay, fast paced
Cons: Work in all weather conditions, all the time, with no sick days. Shift work.
Hired at a good time, didn't see too many off shifts other than my apprenticeship.

Decent overtime and stat pay, except you're expected to work all the stats....benefits are not bad and pension seems good.

Work with some great guys,there are times when work is great and can actually be fun. Some bad blood around, and people just waiting to retire.

Some upper management just wants productivity and doesn't seem to care much about anyone under them.

No preventative maintenance done to our work trucks, they only see a shop once something breaks down, horrible road conditions which makes for quick break downs of vehicles.
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Interesting, Never boring
Rail Traffic Controller (Former Employee), Toronto, ONAugust 20, 2012
Pros: being in control and being successful at my position
Cons: very reactive and not very proactive
I worked with many exceptional people. Every day brought new challenges, kind of like putting a puzzle together and having the pieces constantly change. You had to be on your toes to respond to ever changing situations and be vigilant in safety to make sure every employee in your care went home every night. The hardest part was dealing with impossible expectations or stressful situations, such as a crossing fatality. Maintaining focus was difficult but required during these highly emotional times. The best part was woking with some of the best people in the industry and making the impossible possible.
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Toxic workplace for union workers and managers alike.
train conductor (Former Employee), Toronto, ONAugust 22, 2012
Pros: great fun operating locomotives
Cons: stressful and dangerous job
- building trains in the yard for 9 hours or more using a yard engine or going on a long haul to buffalo
- learned to function under high stress situations in a safety critical job
-Management style not very productive and very derogatory behaviour towards union workers
-co-workers are mostly great and the best part of work
-the hardest part of the work was learning different yards and tracks when new and being called to different locations and times for shift work.
-the most enjoyable part of the work was operating the locomotive and doing a god job at the end of the day with all the trials and tribulations

November 27, 2012

I am trying to get a position as a train condutor, any tips or trade secrets that might help would be appreciated

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Work here, learn a bit, and RUN!!!
Former Rail Car Mechanic Apprentice (Former Employee), Toronto, ONOctober 7, 2012
Pros: paid lunches
Cons: cn looks good on a resume, and you can apply to better skilled trade jobs afterwards
- good camaraderie developed with co-workers
- Seniority is a joke, ie. more senior employees complaining about new hires getting Sunday, Monday off during orientations and training sessions
- rail car apprentices being promoted to supervisor positions after 1 month or less on the job
- easier to get blood from a stone than have a co-worker switch off days with you
- management good with accommodating off days for personal reasons
- management respectful of decisions to resign from CN ie. they will not give you a hard time for resigning
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A wonderful job I did for years.
Signals & Communication Foreman (Former Employee), Vaughn, OntarioFebruary 25, 2014
Pros: the pay! the people! great job.
Cons: dangerous, very dangerous, even with all the saftey regulations it is a life endangering job.
Working for Canadian National Railway was a wonderful learning experience in my life, and the pay was fantastic, beyond expressionable words. I, as a recent highschool graduate would never in my life believe I could earn $20/hr + $100/day (for expenses) straight out of a trade school. That's crazy! But there it was, and the people I worked with they were awesome. Sometimes, things got tense, like in all high pace work environments. However, everyone always tried their best to keep a calm head and figure out a solution.
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hard job on personal life
Conductor (Former Employee), Edmonton, ABJanuary 13, 2016
Pros: great pay and benefits
Cons: on call all the time hard to plan a life around work.
getting called 2 hours before the start of your shift, never knowing when exactly you are going to be working next. Learned how to control a train and run the train from point a to b.

Management likes things done a certain way. always worried about getting the job done on time even if it may not be the safest or right way to do things.

co-workers were awesome to work with on a daily basis. always there to help you if you needed help.

hardest part is the late night shifts when you are not expecting to go to work and then you get called with little to no rest.
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Review for CN RAil
Accounts Receivable Representative/Rate Clerk (Former Employee), Edmonton, ABAugust 30, 2013
CN Rail was a fantastic company to work for. I started as a data entry clerk and through in house training moved into Accounts Receiveable and then a Rate clerk. Both challenging positions but rewarding as well. I like to learn and this company offered me that challenge. Co-workers and management were great and offered great opportunities for advancement if you were willing to learn and step up to to the challenge. One of the most enjoyable parts was the salary without a doubt. Still to this day it was the best paying job I had in my working career!
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Unique work experience
Operations Manager/Director/Locomotive Engineer (Former Employee), Vaughan, ONNovember 12, 2014
Pros: fabulous pay/benefits
Cons: working in subzero weather and on call 24/7 with 2 hr call time
Great ppl to work with, very safety orientated for obvious reasons. Jumping on and off moving equipment, not for easily intimidated persons. Learned all aspects of running trades, operations and rules. Loved that everyday was different. Hardest part was working in all weather outside ,for extended periods of time. Had many opportunities for job advancement and diversity. I took advantage of all the presented to me.
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