The union representing more than half of Canadian Pacific Railway's workers is concerned about their future, and hopes to find out more information today about which jobs will be cut following an announcement Tuesday that 4,500 jobs will be lost by 2016.

Of the 4,500 proposed cuts, 1,700 are expected by the end of 2012.

The company said the planned cuts are part of a plan to streamline the company’s operations and improve growth.

Doug Finnson, vice-president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, said he’s surprised at how many jobs are expected to be lost.

"The announcement that caught me off guard is announcing that 1,700 jobs will be done by the end of the year — that's just four weeks away — and I'm wondering how they're going to accomplish that other than to hand off 1,700 layoff notices for Christmas," Finnson said, adding he has no idea where in the country the layoffs will occur.

"I feel badly for those people in Calgary in head office who may be going home tonight and don’t know if they’re one of the 1,700 or not."

Finnson said he was aware about 40 people in Winnipeg will be laid off. He also said the railway has been working towards moving 35 jobs out of Calgary and into Lethbridge, Alta., or Swift Current, Sask., but he says he wasn’t aware of its larger plans to lay off thousands more.

"I find it very odd that they make a blanket statement of 4,500 jobs, which is a huge number, and then have absolutely no detail, so I’m interested in wondering what the investor community is going to ask [Wednesday] to the operations people, if they’re going to put some details to this blanket statement."

Peter Edward, vice-president of human resources at CP Rail, spoke about the cuts at an investor's conference in New York on Wednesday.

"Is this going to be a lovely, huggy place? No it won't. Great companies are not comfortable places because they demand more of people. They ask you to be better than you are today, tomorrow and better the day after," Edward said. 

Company 'top heavy'

The cuts come after a bitter fight involving the company and shareholders led to new leadership this summer.

CEO Hunter Harrison describes the company as "top heavy" with supervisors and managers. He says some of the cuts will come through retirement and fewer contract jobs.

Robert Schultz, a business professor at the University of Calgary, said the proposed cuts are a big deal because the company has not experienced change in a long time.

"It's taking say 20 years worth of changes and jamming it all into four years. That's what's happening," Schultz said.

"The key issue here is when you cut people by that much, including some of your experienced people, can you maintain the quality for your customers? That's going to be important and we'll just have to wait and see."

Finnson says some jobs in Calgary may go when the company moves the head office to Ogden from its current site downtown .

"I would suspect that their plan would be at that time, when they move the head office, that's when they're going to downsize a lot of those jobs," he said.

But investors seem to like the plan: Shares in the Calgary-based company hit a 52-week high Wednesday.