Union Pacific reopening Pine Bluff shop

by I.C. Murrell for arkansasonline.com

Some furloughed employees are being called back to Union Pacific’s Pine Bluff yard to support repairing locomotives, a spokesperson for the Omaha, Neb.-based railroad company confirmed Friday.

A round of layoffs at UP affected 700 people and included closure of the locomotive shop in Pine Bluff in February 2019, according to Trains.com. UP notified the mechanical department that 450 positions will be eliminated across the system that month, according to the article.

A UP spokeswoman told the website at the time the workforce reduction was a result of a reduced locomotive fleet. She added more than 1,200 locomotives and approximately 30,000 freight cars had been removed from UP’s network since Aug. 1, 2018.

Easing of congestion on UP’s system and operational improvements were to blame for the fleet reduction, according to the article.

Cotton Belt shops in Pine Bluff were the primary repair and construction facility for freight cars, passenger cars and locomotives in the 20th century and merged with UP in 1996, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

UP spokesman Mike Jaixen said he did not have information on the number of people being called back to work, but he did note that the railroad has several positions open in Pine Bluff, including boilermakers, electricians, mechanics and welders. A list is available at https://up.jobs.

“From a community perspective, we’re very excited,” said Allison Thompson, CEO of the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County. “When they went to their new method, they put in a new track in order to bypass a switchyard. Our company noticed a reduction in service. We heard a number of complaints.”

News of UP’s comeback in Pine Bluff is exciting, Thompson commented, because it brings jobs and allows people to go back to work. The railroad serves the Harbor Industrial District including the Port of Pine Bluff and the Jefferson Industrial Park.

“There’s product coming in and product going out,” Thompson said. “Railroads are very important to industrial business.”

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