Railroad unions: Paid sick days may top bonuses in contract talks meant to avert strike

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The lack of some benefits most American workers can easily rely on, such as paid sick leave and regularly scheduled weekends, is prompting some railroad workers to veto contracts that include huge increases and $5,000 bonuses.

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this week’s vote The third largest railroad union expressed against its contract the possibility that a paralyze the nationwide strike Even though the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees division union has promised more talks before considering quitting.

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All 12 rail unions would have to ratify the contract to avoid a strike. Six smaller rail unions have now approved their agreements with major freight railroads after the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers ratified their deal on Thursday.

But the workers who worry most about demanding schedules that call them 24-7 – engineers and conductors, about a third of rail workers – will not vote until next month.

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Eventually Congress can take steps to prevent a strike and enforce a contract if both parties cannot reach an agreement.

The five-year deals include a 24% increase, the biggest in more than four decades, and follow closely Recommendations of a special board of arbitrators Appointed by President Joe Biden this summer. However, those recommendations don’t generally address concerns about worker scheduling and workloads, especially since major railroads have laid off about one-third of their workers in the past six years. Railroads have been reluctant to offer much more than that board’s recommendation, although they agreed to give engineers and conductors three unpaid days off a year, as long as they give 30 days’ notice. Go to medical appointments.

Conductors and engineers clearly have the worst schedules that can lead to weekend shortages because railroads can’t predict when trains will be ready to leave, and because trains run around the clock. Electricians, mechanics and other employees based in a designated location have more regular schedules, but they say their work has also become more demanding.

Currently, railroad workers can take days off for any reason, but those days are usually unpaid and workers can be docked under the railroad’s attendance rules. And unless employees plan far ahead and have the seniority to secure them, it’s hard to approve paid leave or vacation days, making it almost impossible to use that kind of vacation for a sick day. becomes impossible. This is why some employees question the value of an additional paid vacation day these contracts offer, although this would be the first improvement in that vacation time since 1981.

“When I go to pick them up (on personal vacation), every time without fail: ‘Oh, the crew supply doesn’t meet the demand. We’re denying it.’ You have to try to plan them in advance—ahead. So you can’t use them for your sick days,” said Paul Lindsay, a longtime Union Pacific engineer based in Pocatello, Idaho, a railroad workers United is active with the group which is campaigning against the proposed contracts.

electrician style nunemaker wants to see BNSF BRK.A,
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Reduce strict attendance rules allow engineers and conductors to work before they are hired, and she says railroads must provide paid sick leave.

He said, “They have to get a handle on things like this before it gets worse and before it gets to us because ultimately there will be no one to fix the chu-choons that people have to get around.” -Need to run over there,” said. Nunemaker, who wanted to vote “no” on the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers contract, but said she never got the ballot. This has led to her questioning the legitimacy of that vote as several colleagues also reportedly did not receive ballots.

strict attendance policies That some railroads use that dock, some employee marks missing work for almost no reason has been a major concern for unions this year as workers could be disciplined after losing all their points. Railroads maintain the systems they need to ensure they have enough crew available, and they say the system gives workers the flexibility to take a few days off as long as they manage their points. We do.

The Association of American Railroads Trade Group notes that railroad workers have some sickness benefits that begin after a waiting period of four or seven days, and that unions actually began in the 1970s to receive better short-term disability benefits. Traded some paid sick days. But unions say the pandemic – when railroads temporarily offered paid leave for COVID absences – highlighted the need for paid sick time.

Track maintenance worker Matt Mortensen said that when his three boys were young, he had to spend almost all of his vacation time caring for sick children. Then if he took leave, he didn’t have to pay leave.

“To me it’s strange work for a company that’s so profitable and doesn’t have sick days,” said Mortensen, who has worked for BNSF in the Kansas City area for 17 years and didn’t vote on the BMWED contract. .

All major railroads are making substantial profits and BNSF said it made just over $3 billion in the first half of this year.

Scheduling and time off issues have rapidly become top conversational concerns emerging out of the pandemic, but are rarely issues like they are on railroads. Victor Chen, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, said the railroad’s intense focus on a lean operating model relying on short, long trains with fewer engines and crews “makes previously good jobs brutally bad.”

“Over the years, they have laid off workers while expecting those who still want to do a lot,” said Chen, a sociologist who studies labor issues. “They have imposed schedules that are wildly unpredictable because it means they can squeeze more out of each worker. They have implemented crazy attendance policies that will never fly in white-collar workplaces.”

Working conditions on the railroad have also attracted the attention of top policy makers. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced all job cuts while speaking at the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen conference in Las Vegas this week.

“The railroad corporations are making obscene profits on the backs of their employees,” Pelosi said. “You shouldn’t be fired for staying home when you’re sick.”

Lindsay, Union Pacific UNP,
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The engineer said he doesn’t think the unions are asking for too much.

“All we want is our wages to keep up with inflation and we have the ability to take the day off when we need to,” he said. “I think it’s completely fair.”

Credit: www.marketwatch.com /

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