NS CEO Warns Vaccine Rule May Cause Crew Shortages

A Class 1 CEO warned this week that COVID-19 vaccine mandates may result in crew shortages.

James Squares said during his company’s third quarter earnings call that his company has been experiencing higher than normal attrition of operating personnel.

NS is one of three Class 1 freight railroads that have announced that all employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or present a valid reason for an exemption.

Union Pacific and Canadian National also have issued similar rules. The CN rule only applies to Canadian employees.

 NS and UP are involved in litigation over the issue with labor unions who want the issue to be subject to collective bargaining.

Amtrak also has imposed a vaccination requirement for employees. All of the carriers have cited an executive order signed by President Joseph Biden.

In a related development, the board of directors of the Alaska Railroad has rescinded a previously announced vaccination rule.

The board said in a statement that it will wait for the conclusion of court challenges to the federal mandate to play out.

Squires also indicated during the earnings call that NS has faced challenges in hiring and retaining new conductors and that those who have been hired or are in training have quit at high rates.

He indicated NS expects to lose some employees due to the vaccine mandate, which affects railroads because they are considered to be federal government contractors who are thus covered by the executive order.

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