More than 80 mechanical workers at Bailey Yard received notice Saturday, Feb. 2 that they are out of work, and more cuts are likely coming in the car department, as Union Pacific streamlines its operation.
In October, Union Pacific announced a workforce reduction in the fourth quarter of approximately 475 employees across the system, along with about 200 contract positions.
The initial announcement did not create widespread concerns, given that the company has about 40,000 employees across 23 states.
Also additional workforce reductions across the UP system through 2020 were indicated in the October announcement, UP spokeswoman Rachel Espinoza told the Bulletin Monday in an email.
But with the continued layoffs and cutbacks, the situation hits home. Some church services on Sunday in North Platte included prayers for affected workers and families.
The Bailey Yard employees furloughed Saturday included 11 pipe fitters, 26 electricians, 35 machinists and 12 firemen-oilers, according to workers who asked to remain anonymous for fear of job reprisal.
In the transportation department, about 30 conductor and engineer positions were cut two weeks or so ago, which put nearly 45 workers on a reserve board status, other sources said. Up to 75% of the laid off transportation workers are expected to be placed in auxiliary work and training status, working up to eight days a month and retaining full health insurance, Espinoza said in the email.
Espinoza said some of the layoffs are seasonal, because of slower business during the winter months.
“Union Pacific also is experiencing normal ebbs and flows with business demand,” she said.
She did not specify which layoffs were seasonal and which were part of the unified 2020 plan.
Also, there were reported cuts to the managers at the yard, but no specific information.
The reduction is an effort to reduce the general and administrative support structure as the company continues to implement its new operating plan, Unified Plan 2020, Espinoza said.
In October, it was thought that as Union Pacific consolidated operating divisions, some administrative positions would be initially eliminated and small UP yards such as South Morrill and Denver were closed, North Platte Chamber and Development Director Gary Person told the Bulletin in November.
More recently, in Hermiston, Ore., about 140 mechanical jobs have been eliminated at the Hinkle Rail Yard. UP’s western states spokesperson Hannah Bolte told the East Oregonian newspaper that the workforce reduction in Oregon came about due to the completion of Positive Train Control installation as well as a reduction in Union Pacific’s locomotive fleet under Unified Plan 2020. Those cuts are currently taking place now.
As many as 1.200 UP locomotives have reportedly been placed into storage since August, according to an online financial report by Motley Fool, a division of Yahool. com.
The layoffs at Bailey Yard are prompting fears of more cuts to come. No one knows how far the cuts will go, but a video of similar cuts in recent years in the Canadian railway system is circulating through North Platte.
(For more on this situation, buy a copy of the Bulletin’s Feb. 6 print edition, on sale throughout Lincoln County and surrounding communities.)