GUERNSEY - The face and future of the BNSF Railway yard in Guernsey may be changing in the next few months.
According to Maia LaSalle, Director of Public Affairs at BNSF in a release that she provided for the Guernsey Gazette, she said, “BNSF Railway has made the decision to close maintenance facilities in Donkey Creek and Guernsey, in response to our customers’ changing business conditions and projected lower demand for rail cars to ship commodities.”
Although the company has not specified whether other layoffs are coming, speculation in the company is the coronavirus has had an impact on the current announcement. Due to collective bargaining, the railway has 60 days to try to come up with a solution to alleviate the closures, but as of now, the shutdowns are on the table.
History shows this has happened before in the BNSF organization and in the collective bargaining period, the company has not gone ahead with plans to eliminate jobs. Chad Hansen, Terminal Manager at Guernsey, is hopeful this will be the case.
Lasalle, however, said this decision will not be reversed.
Although Hansen has not been able to make an official statement as per company officials, he mentioned that he was “disappointed” as to the development.
“This announcement is specific to our mechanical forces and impacts 92 jobs at Guernsey and 38 jobs at Donkey Creek,” LaSalle said. “The Guernsey terminal will remain operational. I do not have an exact figure on jobs that will remain in Guernsey, but the transportation employees will remain operational. We will continue to operate in the town of Guernsey.”
The company has tried to be cooperative and supportive in answering all questions posed by the community and has been transparent in the feelings and communication it has put forth toward the town of Guernsey, she said.
“We understand the significant impact this has on our employees and the communities in which they live,” LaSalle said. “We are working diligently to connect them with available resources, while also offering the option to potentially transfer to a number of open positions at other locations in our network.”
BNSF is the largest railway service in the United States with more than 40,000 employees and has felt the crunch with the coronavirus. Guernsey has experienced a bit of a setback as Hansen said they have had to furlough a few employees.
“Employees accepting a job in other locations will receive a relocation package to assist with the move,” LaSalle said. “Some impacted employees can exercise their seniority for these jobs as part of their collective bargaining agreements.”
Many questions and rumors have been swirling concerning the shutdown since the announcement May 6. Some have speculated that railway cars are being shipped to California, dismantled and sold to China.
LaSalle said in response to this that she had heard no such thing and that it was not information sent forth from BNSF.
The Donkey Creek shop is set to close on June 5. The final day for the Guernsey shop is scheduled July 7.