Union leaders: UP cuts affect 118 employees at Bailey Yard

A pair of engines sit at Union Pacific's Bailey Yard on April 11, 2016. 

The Union Pacific Railroad’s Bailey Yard at North Platte has received its fifth round of furloughs or job eliminations in less than a year.

An unspecified number of mechanical employees have been furloughed at the yard, said Raquel Espinoza, the railroad’s senior director for corporate communications and media.

As during previous rounds, Espinoza declined to disclose the total number or crafts of idled employees, citing company policy.

“The workforce reduction is a result of fewer rail cars traveling on our network,” Espinoza said. The furloughed employees “could potentially return to work, if business needs change.”

Previous job reductions have been related to Union Pacific’s Unified Plan 2020, unveiled last fall. The management strategy generally seek to improve U.P.’s operating margin by storing locomotives and reducing inventories of rail cars.

Social media posts and other local reports have indicated that about 50 Bailey Yard employees were idled by the most recent reductions.

That would raise total 2019 job losses at the yard to about 250 and drop total employment there below 2,000, based on previous estimates by the North Platte Area Chamber & Development Corp.

Gary Person, the chamber’s president and CEO, said Tuesday that Union Pacific officials didn’t alert his office to the latest furloughs.

“They usually give the city (government) a heads-up or us a heads-up,” he said.

The yard’s continued job cuts, Person said, reinforce the importance of embracing efforts to broaden North Platte’s industrial and employment base.

Union Pacific officials have given “some encouragement” to working with North Platte leaders “to diversify our economy and bring additional rail traffic into this region,” Person said.

Meanwhile, the latest furloughs offer “all the more reason why we need to make a commitment when someone like Chief Industries wants to invest in North Platte,” he added.

Chief Development Inc., a division of Grand Island-based Chief Industries, announced last week that it hopes to invest $30 million to $40 million in industrial, commercial and residential projects along and south of Interstate 80.

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