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BNSF Railway Havelock shop

Workers at the BNSF Railway Havelock shops produce tens of thousands of wheel sets each year for rail cars.

The future of BNSF Railways' Havelock shops appears to be up in the air.

BNSF spokesman Andy Williams said in an email this week that the railroad is "working on a restructuring at Havelock," although he declined to provide any details.

Several unions represent various workers at the shops, including carmen, mechanics, electricians and pipefitters, and those unions voted last week on a new agreement. At last count, more than 400 people worked there.

Union officials have either declined to comment or have not responded to requests for comment about the contents of the agreement and the results of last week's votes.

However, a copy of the agreement obtained by the Journal Star shows that BNSF wants to separate the seniority rosters for workers at the Havelock shops and those in the railroad's diesel shop at its Hobson Yard on West O Street.

According to the agreement, employees at both the Havelock shops and the diesel shop would have to reapply for jobs for which they are qualified within 30 days of the agreement being signed.

Once new job assignments are determined, BNSF would create two new seniority rosters, one for Havelock and one for the diesel shop. 

Currently, workers at either location carry their seniority rights to bid on jobs at the other location, but going forward, seniority would only apply to the location of their primary job.

For agreeing to alter their job status and seniority rights, the union members in return appear to get their jobs guaranteed for one year.

"BNSF agrees that there will be no furloughs at Havelock or Lincoln for a period of one year, beginning on the date the realignment takes effect," the agreement says.

At the Havelock facility, which has been in existence for nearly 130 years, BNSF repairs, maintains and assembles wheel sets for thousands of rail cars each year.

In a 2015 Journal Star article, the Havelock superintendent at the time, Ward Greisen, said that BNSF was the only railroad in the U.S. with its own wheel shop.

"The rest have outsourced," Greisen said.

Union members who spoke privately to the Journal Star said they believe BNSF will move to privatize the Havelock shops and outsource work if the unions do not agree to the new contract.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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