Twenty-one Bailey Yard workers in the car repair shop lost their jobs Tuesday, as Union Pacific blamed a downturn in business due to the COVID-19 shutdown.
The workers were sent home to wait for a possible recall, a Bailey Yard insider told the Bulletin. The employees are eligible for railroad unemployment and their health insurance will be paid for four months, but no one knows if they will be called back. That depends on when rail traffic increases again.
As the month of May winds down, workplaces and restaurants are just starting to re-open around the country.
Union Pacific Spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza said the company “is experiencing volume declines as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the country. We are operating fewer locomotives and rail cars, which required us to reduce our workforce in the mechanical department.”
Also, the company previously cut 25% from the pay of senior company officials and managers. Also, they are asking some workers to take a day off when it’s apparent they won’t be needed.
An employee will get a call asking if they are willing to take a day off tomorrow. Some do, but they don’t have to, because they have a binding contract signed by management and the union, workers said.
Cuts at Bailey Yard, and to other UP yards around the country, have become somewhat normal during the last two years, making the workers who remain nervous.
It is more worrisome when cuts are made in the mechanical department than in the transportation department, because car repair, electrician and diesel mechanics are typically the most stable jobs, a union official said.
Bailey Yard once employed 2,000 people, and the company won’t say how many people work there now. About 300 mechanical workers were laid off in 2019, under the company’s “Unified 2020” plan to increase operating efficiency.