Monday, May 18, 2009

UP plans to be crew-ready when traffic returns

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The United Transportation Union says it recognized some time ago that furloughs of operating crews would be necessary as traffic slumped. That's when UTU began to talk with the carriers about devising ways to ensure that a sufficient number of crews would be available when traffic came back.

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Union Pacific, with memories of being caught crew-short after the UP-Southern Pacific merger, has responded with a solid plan, says the union.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, UP at a cost of around $50 million a year is arranging that 1,600 of its 5,000 furloughed workers--many of them trains conductors--will continue to work eight days a month to remain current on training and qualifications. They will also get all health benefits. Calling these workers back will take less than 30 days vs. 60-to-90 days for other furloughed employees.

Among other considerations, notes UTU's Frank Wilner, this will help prevent some of the best-qualified young workers from straying to other employment.