The railroad strike lasted less than 24 hours this week, but the threat of a longer walkout was enough to cancel plans for directors of Union Pacific Corp. to come by train to the company's annual meeting Friday at Little America.
As it was, Spencer F. Eccles, chairman of First Security Corp. in Salt Lake City, was the only director, other than Chairman Drew Lewis, on hand for the meeting - a quiet one with no pickets at the doors and no dissident shareholders in the audience, perhaps a testament to UPC's rising stock price.Lewis, who is also president and chief executive officer, told the gathering that the train trip by directors - the best known of whom is Henry Kissinger - would perhaps be rescheduled for next year's meeting.
Other than the missing directors, Lewis had nothing but good news for shareholders. The past year posted record earnings as net income reached a record $618 million, up 4 percent from the $595 million earned in 1989.
Earnings per share were $6.17, 10 percent ahead of the previous year, and return on equity reached 15.1 percent. Dividends increased to $2.365 per share, up from $2.23.
Union Pacific Railroad, which represents the vast majority of the corporation's earnings, logged a 2 percent increase in 1990 with $560 million, a difficult fete, said Lewis, considering the substantially higher fuel prices last year during the Persian Gulf crisis.
Lewis said the railroad has been completely reorganized in recent years as employment has been cut 22 percent from 37,600 to 29,500 workers. Acknowledging that reducing employment is a sensitive issue and "we don't enjoy it," Lewis nonetheless declared, "We have to replace those who watch with those who work" and vowed to "keep doing it come what may."
The results of the restructuring speak for themselves, UP Railroad Chairman Michael H. Walsh told the gathering. While employment is down, productivity, measured by gross ton-miles per employee, has nearly doubled since 1985 from 6.9 million to 12.4 million.
Thanks to these efficiencies, along with higher volume, UP Railroad has increased its earnings each quarter for 21 consecutive quarters.
Walsh said the railroad's goal is to become a world-class company "recognized as the best among its peers." To do that, he said, managers have to embrace change as an integral part of their jobs, get the most out of the company's technology and provide service that "aggressively rivals trucks."
Commenting on the strike, and the establishment by Congress and President Bush of a special review committee, Walsh assured there would be a settlement of all disputed issues by late June with the creation of a new four-year contract.
"There is no possibility of another strike," declared Walsh.