NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — The Union Pacific Railroad carried out additional job reductions at North Platte’s Bailey Yard on Wednesday, the latest in a series of furloughs and job eliminations under U.P.’s systemwide Unified Plan 2020.
Railroad officials informed the North Platte Area Chamber and Development Corp. of the latest job cuts, chamber President and CEO Gary Person told The Telegraph.
“We were officially notified by Union Pacific’s regional community relations personnel early (Wednesday) morning that this was occurring,” he said. “But they would not talk specific numbers.”
Based on previous Bailey Yard employment estimates given to the chamber, he said, U.P. has cut about 200 net jobs at the world’s largest rail classification yard over the last three years.
That would include at least three previous rounds of Bailey Yard job cuts since New Year’s Day. Local railroad union leaders previously pegged total job losses at 118 from January and February furloughs and job eliminations. Additional cuts were made in April.
U.P. officials pegged Bailey’s employment at 2,048 in a meeting with community leaders last month, Person said. Based on the chamber’s newest information, he said, the latest cuts should leave the yard with around 2,000 employees.
“The railroad is going to do what the railroad feels it needs to do. That’s just the way it is,” Person said. “We have to put our efforts (as a community) into greater diversification in our employee base.
“And we’re working on it. There are some encouraging developments in the works.”
U.P. spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza confirmed Wednesday that more jobs have been cut in North Platte and in the South Morrill yard, where the railroad closed one of its two mechanical shops in October.
In March, Union Pacific notified its locomotive employees that positions would be eliminated, she said in an email.
Espinoza declined to specify the newest or cumulative total of job cuts at Bailey Yard, but again attributed the reductions to “a reduced locomotive fleet and fewer rail cars on our network” under Unified Plan 2020.
Union Pacific has stored more than 1,000 locomotives and trimmed thousands of rail cars from its inventory since announcing its new “Precision Scheduled Railroading” operations philosophy last September. It envisioned eliminating nearly 500 jobs across the U.P. system.
The railroad in April reported record first-quarter net income of $1.4 billion and a 1 percentage point improvement over the past year in U.P.’s “operating ratio” — the percentage of income it spends on operating expenses — over the first quarter of 2018.
U.P. officials informed Morrill village leaders Monday that 30 workers would be furloughed at the remaining South Morrill mechanical shop, the Scottsbluff Star-Herald reported.
Sixty-eight South Morrill workers likewise were furloughed when the railroad closed the larger mechanical shop there. Union Pacific established the yard in the 1980s when it completed its branch line from there to the coal fields in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.
Tony Schuler, chairman of the Morrill Village Board, said it appeared newly furloughed South Morrill workers would have the same chance as their predecessors to transfer to Bailey Yard or another U.P. shop.
If they’re still officially on the railroad’s employment books, workers who transfer could “bump” other members of their craft’s local union if they have more seniority, North Platte union leaders have said.