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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Few details released about this week's BNSF layoff

By Jason Stuart

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

Mass layoffs are rippling through BNSF Railway’s Glendive operation.

According to unofficial sources and posts being made on local social media pages, at least 25 Glendive BNSF Diesel Shop employees were laid off at the beginning of this week. 

The Ranger-Review was unable to confirm the specifics of the current round of layoffs or any other looming employee transfers out of Glendive.

BNSF spokesman Matt Jones did not provide any details, instead responding to inquiries with a single statement submitted by e-mail.

“Our workforce needs are driven by our customers’ freight transportation needs. Unfortunately, freight volumes are lower than previously forecast in a number of our business sectors, and BNSF has more than 4,600 people on furlough,” Jones’ statement read. “Lower volumes have also led to a decline in demand for locomotive and railcar repair and maintenance. As it becomes necessary to make any additional workforce adjustments we will inform affected employees directly.”

Jones did not respond to a subsequent request for more detailed information specific to Glendive before press time.

The Ranger-Review was unable to reach or did not receive responses from others, including union representatives, who might have knowledge of the situation.

Glendive Diesel Shop official Gabe Schlosser said he was unable to make any comment and referred all inquiries back to Jones.

This marks the second time in less than a year that jobs have been shed from BNSF’s Glendive operation. Last summer, 10 Glendive-based conductors and engineers were transferred to Laurel, and there were also some furloughs last summer.

At the beginning of this year, Jones said in an interview that BNSF faced an “uncertain” 2016, due to a drastic decrease in rail freight demand. Coal and oil rail shipments in particular have dropped precipitously over the past year, which, as two of the region’s biggest exports, has had a significant impact on railway operations.

Not that long ago, BNSF was hiring at a feverish pace in Montana. The company had hired over 800 new employees in Montana from 2011-2014, and at an October 2014 event at Dawson Community College, a BNSF executive said the company expected to hire another 500 employees in Montana in 2015.

Instead, the company has gone the other way as market conditions have changed and rail freight demand slowed.

Reach Jason Stuart at rrreporter@rangerreview.com.

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