Do railroads really value their employees?

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Do railroads really value their employees?

Postby abc8251 » Tue Sep 26, 2017 12:38 pm

From what I've read, it doesn't really seem like they do. It seems like they're mostly concerned with their bottom line.
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Re: Do railroads really value their employees?

Postby kilroy » Tue Sep 26, 2017 1:21 pm

Welcome to life in 21st Century corporate America. It's all about shareholder value now.
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Re: Do railroads really value their employees?

Postby Wayside » Tue Sep 26, 2017 3:07 pm

I remember years ago a railroad executive of a class 1 railroad in the northeast said that his theory of people management was the "rat and stick" method. You use the stick to guide the employee (rat) in the direction you want it to go. If the rat strays from the intended course, you hit the rat with the stick. If, after several whacks, the rat quits or dies, you simply get a new rat. He said this half jokingly (you never could tell with him).

But seriously, railroads mostly follow the bad old ways of dealing with their people who work under agreements. Labor relations staff in these corporations are often the least enlightened people who work for the company overall. Workers are not generally considered assets but rather just thought of as easily replaceable items.
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Re: Do railroads really value their employees?

Postby enterprise11 » Wed Sep 27, 2017 1:25 pm

No, you're just a number, an expendable line item on the company budget.
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Re: Do railroads really value their employees?

Postby freightguy » Wed Sep 27, 2017 10:39 pm

I think years ago they did. It's a much different culture it seems today especially in freight. In my opinion, don't know if value is the right word, but your job may be safer in passenger service!
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Re: Do railroads really value their employees?

Postby jz441 » Fri Sep 29, 2017 12:41 am

Freightguy is correct... Years ago they did. Today, you are just a warm body filling a vacancy. The word "Value" has no value on the railroad.
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Re: Do railroads really value their employees?

Postby cr9617 » Tue Oct 03, 2017 7:36 pm

Wayside wrote:I remember years ago a railroad executive of a class 1 railroad in the northeast said that his theory of people management was the "rat and stick" method. You use the stick to guide the employee (rat) in the direction you want it to go. If the rat strays from the intended course, you hit the rat with the stick. If, after several whacks, the rat quits or dies, you simply get a new rat. He said this half jokingly (you never could tell with him).

But seriously, railroads mostly follow the bad old ways of dealing with their people who work under agreements. Labor relations staff in these corporations are often the least enlightened people who work for the company overall. Workers are not generally considered assets but rather just thought of as easily replaceable items.



Very true. The railroad makes you jump through hoops to get the job and spends tons of money to train you, but then they spend the rest of your career looking to see which rule you broke so they can fire you.
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Re: Do railroads really value their employees?

Postby Conrail4evr » Fri Oct 13, 2017 2:11 pm

All depends on where you are. To a Class I freight railroad, you're just a number - they wholeheartedly subscribe to Theory X. The Passenger side tends to treat their people well and provide them with a better lifestyle, hence the constant flow of freight guys to Amtrak or commuter agencies.

Shortlines can be hit & miss - I know of several Shortlines that used to be great, family-like operations until the Class I attitude infiltrated them. Regionals like RBMN, MRL, NYSW, etc. are generally good places to work and pay better than most Shortlines (but not as good as Class Is or Passenger).
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Re: Do railroads really value their employees?

Postby cjvrr » Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:18 pm

No offense, but it isn't much different in any field. I work in government and the same holds true. The politicians keep your wages low because they are paid with taxes, the public hates you because you are a "typical government employee" enforcing rules they don't agree with. Even when you are one of the few that bust your butt to do a good job there is very little thanks at the end of the day (or your career).

With how lean and mean we now run if you don't produce in the first 90 days (probationary period) you are shown the door.

And the slackers that are long time permanent employees do as little as possible as they know the union will go to bat for them to keep them employed until retirement.

My private sector friends in the same type business (engineering) also suffer some of the same issues but most have no pension to look for at the end of their career.
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Re: Do railroads really value their employees?

Postby JCB » Mon Jul 09, 2018 5:12 pm

abc8251 wrote:From what I've read, it doesn't really seem like they do. It seems like they're mostly concerned with their bottom line.

It seems weird that online alot of people say negative things about management or the railroad, yet my brother worked 9 yrs for Union Pacific had nothing but good things to say. I know many people who work on them and to be honest none of them have said negative things about them. That they always cared about your safety and getting you home. So I really don't get it other than people who already are not happy when they're hired. No one followed my brother around or ever try and fire him.

In reality it is no different than any other job. I don't mean the job itself, but supervisors, management, people in higher positions and coworkers. Most are nice and a few who aren't.
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Re: Do railroads really value their employees?

Postby Engineer Spike » Fri Jul 13, 2018 1:30 pm

I was once in the yard office getting my marching instructions from the yardmaster. The trainmaster was based in the same office. He was calling the crew dispatcher to fill a job. I overheard him say that he needed a “body” to fill the job.
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Re: Do railroads really value their employees?

Postby edbear » Fri Jul 13, 2018 8:41 pm

Railroads do not value employees like they used to. I started with Boston & Maine in the General Office - Accounting - in 1968. Most of the managers throughout the company were up from the ranks, even if they had started at some other railroad. They were compassionate and understanding. Sure they wanted results, but they, along with rank and file were compassionate. During my time, two conductors, one an older guy who suffered a stroke and a much younger one who was mowed down by a wild driver, were given office jobs when they returned to work. This was done with union assistance. Neither could handle the office tasks but were kept on until they could go out on disability. I also worked with a guy whose father worked for the Boston Elevated-MTA. The father died and my friend at 16, oldest son in a large family, was given a job in the MTA's track department so he could support the family. A 16 yr. old boy. He eventually obtained GED, military, college, MTA, MBTA, SEPTA, Amtrak, retirement. Those days are gone. But it is not just the railroads that have changed. Just about all industry and society has changed. Back then if someone did something to really upset a member of the public, that person was reprimanded. The entire force was not given retraining like Starbucks. Just the one offender got the retraining. The B & M turned in poor financial performances from post World War II days right through to bankruptcy in 1970 and for some very shaky years thereafter. Never once did management blame the employees for the poor results. In fact, following the trends in the railroad industry and anticipating that any upturn in results would be short lived, the managers left some authorized positions vacant for lengthy periods, so when the axe fell, they abolished jobs that had no one on them.
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Re: Do railroads really value their employees?

Postby Gadfly » Sun Jul 15, 2018 9:55 pm

Working in the railroad environment that I did, it was a mixed bag. A lot depended on the location and the particular management on board at the time. Southern Railway was generally very strict in the Transportation Dept. The shops where I first started were more like most other "civilian" heavy repair facilities encountered elsewhere. You could get this Alpha Hotel trainmaster that would give you ground time if you looked at 'im funny, or if you LOOKED like you were about to make a mistake, or you could get one who started as a brakeman in the steam days. One of those saved my a$$ one night when I was called off the Extra Board to work the Crew Caller job. It was one of the jobs I never "cubbed" before I was marked up. I knew **** from shinola about the crew book and their seniority roster. It was one of the jobs that would get you 10 days at the drop of a hat. "Boogety Davis" knew I was clueless and groused about why the RR called people who had not been trained to protect assignments. So he sat with me thru the whole third trick pointing out who stood for what call; he knew the seniority roster by heart, and them boys weren't going to pull any s**** on his clerk this night, no siree! I was always grateful to Mr. Davis for that.
Most of the time, even the environment on Southern was very stressful, I never had any real trouble while in the yards or Line of Road. I came close once when the computer did a "glitch" and sent a car off-line to an unmatched Route-destination. It was supposed to stop that, but it let the waybill go thru. I was about to get ground time when the Terminal Agent called me in on it. What saved my butt was when I pointed out that the computer was designed to prevent route-destination mistakes, not allowing mismatches to print.

Two things happened to make things WORSE. In 1982, Southern and Norfolk & Western merged to form Norfolk Southern Corp. The people from NW were even worse than Southern, and seemed to LOOK for any reason they could to run us off. Shortly after merger, I bid back to the shops which, by now was infiltrated with NW managers. These were managers from Hell! Where I had never had a problem at either the Yard OR the shops previously, it was a few years on that I had my first out-of-service letter! They were little things at first: a pallet collapsed coming off a truck spilling some paint on the ground. I got one week off (NW supervisor). A new employee set down a camp trailer door right behind the truck I was unloading and I ran over the corner. Another week off. Stuff like that. They were inconsistent in their punishment, sometimes very biased.

All in all, the railroads did and do live up to their reputations as militaristic, archaic, rigid, and paternalistic. But--I don't have to put up with anymore. So! a big ole raspberry right in their faces! PSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! :-D

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