Rail Union: Plan for contract settlement fails to address concerns

OMAHA, Nebraska (AP) — The head of the nation’s largest railroad union says The report designed to help resolve stalled contract talks with freight railroads doesn’t do enough to address concerns about working conditions, though it suggests raises of 24%.

the indicated railways earlier this week that they were ready to reach an agreement based on the recommendations of the Emergency Presidential Board that Joe Biden Appointed last month. But early comments Thursday from union leaders suggest the 115,000 workers they represent may not be ready to sign on.

Both parties have 30 days to negotiate a contract before federal law allowed a strike or lockout. But if both sides come to mid-September without a deal, Congress is likely to step in and impose conditions to prevent a strike.

The notice’s recommendations were a “huge improvement” over previous proposals by the railroads, said Jeremy Ferguson, president of the Sheet Metal, Air, Railroad and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division union that represents drivers. But, he added, “the recommendations don’t go far enough to provide our members with the quality of life they have earned and that they and their families deserve.”

The other 11 unions involved in contract talks have not yet commented on details. Ferguson’s comments echo some of the concerns that individual rail workers have been posting online since the report was released Tuesday.

Workers want the railways to ease some of their restrictions attendance policies who say to keep them on call and make it difficult for them to take any days off. Unions also say the always difficult rail work has become significantly more demanding in recent years after major freight railroads cut nearly a third of their jobs.

The railroads say they don’t need as many employees and locomotives as they used to because they overhauled their operations to run fewer and longer trains.

Ferguson said the arbitration panel’s recommendations do little to resolve the divide between rail investors and executives who have benefited from recent record profits, and the workers who keep the trains running 24/7. of the week and worked hard during the pandemic.

The arbitrators said most union concerns about working conditions should be resolved through arbitration, which can drag on for years, rather than through contract negotiations. Negotiations on the contract itself have been going on for more than two years.

The group that negotiates on behalf of the major railroads, the Committee of the National Conference of Carriers, said the recommended deal would deliver the biggest raises in decades and push average railroad workers’ wages up to $110,000 a year at the end of the five-year deal. .

In addition to the raises, which are larger than the 17% offered by the railroads but not as generous as the 31% sought by the unions, the recommended deal would include five $1,000 bonuses and an additional day of paid leave per year.

Another key point in the negotiations has been the proposal of the railways to reduce the crew of the trains from two people to one. Unions strongly oppose such a move not only to protect jobs but also because they say they are concerned about safety.

federal regulators proposed a rule last month that will require two-person crews in most cases, but the railroads have continued to push for the change because they say a new automatic braking system that can stop trains in certain circumstances makes it unnecessary to have a second person in the cabin.

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