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Rail News: Labor

UP reverses Class I workforce-reduction trend by adding train-service employees


Although it laid off 300 management workers and chose not to replace 700 open managerial positions earlier this year, Union Pacific Railroad has been — and expects to continue — hiring train-service employees.

Between January and August, the Class I hired 1,000 workers, mostly conductors and engineers. By year end, the railroad expects to add another 1,000 train-service employees, mostly switchmen and brakemen, and by year-end 2004, hire 3,000 more.

The Class I is adding train-crew members to cover retirements and increasing traffic, says UP spokesman Mark Davis.

Some workers with 30 years of service are retiring with full benefits at age 60 instead of 65. And UP's weekly traffic figures recently have increased between 6 percent and 8 percent compared with similar 2002 periods, while the railroad's year-to-date traffic is up about 1 percent, according to Association of American Railroads data.

So far in 2003, most Class Is have been shrinking rather than expanding their workforces. Burlington Northern Santa Fe laid off 332 locomotive-shop workers, CSX Transportation eliminated 143 supervisory positions, Canadian Pacific Railway cut some of the 820 jobs it plans to drop during the next two years and Norfolk Southern Corp. recently implemented a voluntary separation program for non-agreement employees with at least two years of service.

Since 1980, the total Class I workforce has been reduced by more than half, from 580,000 to 206,000, said BNSF Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Rose last month at Railway Supply Institute Inc.’s 42nd annual convention in Chicago.

But Rose expects Class Is' workforce subtractions to level off and employment levels to rise modestly next year because half of large roads’ workers will reach retirement age in six years.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/10/2003