John Orr on labor: There’s nothing we can’t do together

John Orr, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, has spent his nearly four decades railroading career advancing positive relationships between labor and management, both in Canada and the United States. For the first 15 years of his railroading career, Orr worked as a conductor and labor leader before transitioning into leadership.

Since joining Norfolk Southern, Orr has prioritized his commitment to fostering positive, collaborative relationships with our craft colleagues. In addition to making regular rounds at the ballast line throughout our 22-state network, he established a formal council with labor leaders to engage in regular, structured dialogue. The council is unique to NS and does not currently exist in the rail industry.

Orr recently discussed how NS and our labor partners are creating a safe, reliable, and resilient railroad. To learn more, watch the video below.

Here’s what he had to say:

Creating a task force focused on advancing safety and excellence

As a lifelong railroader, there's nothing more important to me than the safety of our team. We have created a task force to really address continuous improvement in two major hump yards: Conway and Chattanooga. For the last 24 hours, we've had a team of experts from management and labor assessing and validating safety and safe work practices to make sure the safety plans that we have in place are actually working and taking back opportunities to change or improve some of the practices or really reinforce the best practices.

Listening to the expert feedback from our labor partners

It's been great feedback, particularly from our union partners who understand firsthand what it takes to work safely. No one knows safety better than our craft employees. They help us shape policy. They help us get better every day from a safety, engagement, and deployment. You have a made in the ballast answer to ongoing safety concerns. It allows us to get ahead of potential issues well before they manifest into an at-risk activity.

NS and labor partnering together to achieve excellence

They're giving feedback freely with the known expectation that we're going to do something about it. And together we're going to make improvements. I think it's a great process. It's something unique to NS. And I'll tell you, it's a best-in-class process. And when management and labor work hand in glove, especially on safety, it's a win-win across the board. There's nothing we can't do together.