Union Pacific: How operations have changed during pandemic and how staff are returning to work safely

Staff return to work with new health protocols
Posted at 6:11 PM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 19:11:29-04

OMAHA, Neb. — Like many companies, COVID-19 has affected operations of railroad giant Union Pacific. Their pandemic response plan had to adapt quickly.

"We did have a pandemic response plan but it was a couple of years out of date. This was a really good opportunity for us to really get in there and pick it apart and rework it to update it," Assistant Vice President of Workforce Operations at Union Pacific Polly Harris said.

With outbreaks at multiple Union Pacific locations, Harris says the company is actively monitoring and reminding employees of the new COVID-19 safety protocols.

"There's signage, there's business protocol that's expected to be required at all our locations," Harris said.

The Union Pacific Center in downtown Omaha has now returned 20 percent of their staff back into the building with stringent disinfecting practices put in place.

The company says it's typical for America's economy to directly reflect the railway systems, and in the first few months of the pandemic both took a hard hit.

"We did institute a required unpaid leave of absence for all of our non-union and management employees. Executives did take a 25 percent pay reduction. All of this is done through the months of May through August. And then we've had some furloughs," Harris said.

But things are looking up as more businesses get back on their feet and Union Pacific continues to transport goods and services all across the country.

"What we've seen here recently is as early as May... those auto manufacturers start to come back online. So we're starting to see that production, we're getting those shipments out and we're feeling good about where things are headed," Harris said.

Hopefully headed on a one-way train to better safety and a better economy.