CSX Wants Engineers to Agree to Hourly Wages

CSX wants to pay its locomotive engineers by the hour rather than by the mile and has entered negotiations seeking to achieve that objective.

The railroad told the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen of that desire on July 19. No timeline has been set for implementing the change or starting negotiations.

BLET expected CSX to push for hourly wages because its CEO, E. Hunter Harrison, was able to negotiate those at other railroads that he oversaw.

The union has therefore been studying the agreements those railroads had with their engineers.

“We believe we are close to having an opening offer based on what was acceptable to the other railroads,” BLET executive Bill Lyons wrote in a message to union members. “Of course, the carrier may have an offer in mind that is nowhere near our position. We also believe the carrier will push to get an agreement in a very rapid fashion.”

Lyons, who is general chairman of BLET’s CSX Northern Lines General Committee of Adjustment, described the hourly wage as a purchase of work rules. “We have fought for over 150 years for many of the work protections we have today and the hourly price has to be right if we are to negotiate them away.”

While Harrison was CEO at Canadian Pacific the company reached an agreement in 2015 for hourly wages for engineers on the former Soo Line and Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern territories.

The contract stipulated that engineers would be paid for a 10-hour day and be eligible for overtime and holiday pay.

The work environment shifted to scheduled work days with two scheduled days off in every seven- or eight-day work cycle.

Most engineers have been able to earn 20 to 30 percent more than under the previous mileage-based system.

For its part, CP was able to eliminate certain work rules, resulting in more crew flexibility and productivity.

One change included allowing engineers of through freights to do yard and hostler work, which meant CP was able to cut costs by making do with fewer engineers.

CP also believed that the new work environment made it easier to recruit and retain engineers due to quality-of-life improvements.

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