Furloughed with novel twist: Reduced days

December 14, 2010

Unlike prior years, where railroads cut loose employees during lean times, leaving them without benefits, Union Pacific during this recession has attempted to keep many on a reduced schedule, allowing them to retain health care benefits, reports the Topeka Capital-Journal.

A UP spokesperson told the Capital-Journal it had furloughed 5,300 people across the system at the height of the recession, but the number of furloughed workers is now only about 1,000.

The UP spokesperson told the newspaper it has tried to keep many of the 5,300 furloughed workers on a reduced schedule, allowing them to retain health care benefits and avoid having to retrain.

“When you bring someone back to work in the rail industry [after they were cut loose], they have to go back through [safety] rules training. They have to have refresher courses. This time we had employees stay with us and work at a reduced number of days.

“An employee may be working eight days a month and is only getting paid for eight days a month, but more importantly he is retaining his benefits,” said the UP spokesperson. “He is able to keep his rules current and doesn’t have to go back through training. As soon as things start getting better, an employee can step up and work right away.”

The UTU has been urging other railroads to follow a similar course of action, which UTU International President Mike Futhey calls “a win-win for the railroad and their highly trained and dedicated work force.”