Posts Tagged ‘contract negotiations’

Unions, Railroad Far Apart in Contract Proposals

July 25, 2022

As a presidential emergency begins to investigate the contract dispute between major U.S. railroads and their labor unions, it is finding the two sides are far apart  on wages and medical benefits.

The PEB began hearings on Sunday and the proposals they received from the two sides show a wide gulf between what unions want in wages and benefits and what the railroads are proposing to pay.

As reported by Trains magazine on its website, the unions want a 31.2 percent wage increase compounded over five years retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020.

The railroads have countered with a 17 percent compounded increase over the same term.

The Trains report cited a fact sheet released by Union Rail Unions, which represents the unions.

On a per year basis, the management offer calls for wage increases of 2 percent or 3 percent, except for a 6 percent increase in 2022.

The unions are seeking wage hikes of 6 percent in 2020 and 2021, 8 percent in 2022, and 4 percent in each of the final two years.

As for medical benefits, the unions want to maintain the status quo on the monthly worker contribution to healthcare, which is now $228.89.

Railroad management wants to increase the worker contribution to $321 while increasing the deductibles, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximums for individuals and families.

The PEB is expected to release its recommendations on or before Aug. 15.

The two sides can accept or reject those recommendations. If the latter occurs, neither side can engage in a strike or lockout for another 30 days.

Retailers Urge Creation of PEB in Labor Talks

July 8, 2022

The National Retail Federation has joined the list of trade groups urging President Joseph Biden to appoint a Presidential Emergency Board to make recommendations for ending a contract stalemate between railroad labor and management.

In a letter to Biden dated July 6, the NRF expressed concern that a potential rail strike would adversely affect the nation’s economy by disrupting the supply chain.

Railroad labor unions and management have been negotiating for more than two years for a new contact.

The National Mediation Board oversaw the talks earlier this year, but recently declared the talks to be at impasse and released the parties from further negotiations under Board auspices

Court Rejects Local Bargaining by Union

April 6, 2022

An effort by a railroad labor union to engage in local negotiations over wages and benefits was rejected by a federal court.

The court ruled that the Railway Labor Act does not allow the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to seek local negotiations with some railroads.

National contract negotiations between railroad labor unions and major railroads have been underway since 2020. It is common for those negotiations to last for several years before reaching agreement on a new contract.

So long as negotiations continue the unions cannot strike. Currently, the parties are involved in mediation in an effort to hammer out a new agreement.

Labor Requests Mediation in Contract Talks

January 26, 2022

The umbrella group that represents most railroad labor unions has formally asked the National Mediation Board to help move along stalled negotiations for a new contract.

The Coordinated Bargaining Coalition said on Monday that it expects a mediator appointed by the NMB will help the parties to refocus the issues in the negotiations.

The coalition has been bargaining with the National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents most Class 1 railroads and several other smaller ones in national contract talks.

The two sides began meeting in 2020 last week the union coalition said the talks had reached an impasse.

For its part the NCCC said it welcomes the assistance of a mediator.

Under the federal Railway Labor Act, railroad labor contracts do not expire and the law sets out a series of steps unions and railroads must take before engaging in such self-help actions as a strike or lockout.

Mediation Seen as Next Step in Contract Talks

January 22, 2022

Mediation is being seen as the next step in contract talks between railroad labor unions and the carriers that employ them, Railway Age columnist Frank N. Wilner wrote on the trade magazine’s website.

The Coordinated Bargaining Coalition, which represents most railroad labor unions, has declared that negotiations have reached an impasse.

Wilner wrote that the National Mediation Board is likely to appoint a senior mediator who will seek to guide the parties to a voluntary settlement.

The federal Railway Labor Act mandates that railroad labor contracts never expire. Typically, they are renegotiated every five years with the current round of talks having begun in 2020.

The RLA also sets out a series of steps that labor and management must meet before either may initiate a strike or lockout.

These steps involve cooling off periods lasting up to 90 days before either side can take self-help action.

Labor’s declaration of an impasse does not mean much because only the NMB has the authority to declare an impasse, which could then lead to the creation by President Joseph Biden of a presidential emergency board to make non-binding recommendations for a settlement.

Wilner wrote that the NMB usually is reluctant to declare an impasse during an election year. Members of Congress dislike having to address controversial issues that might force them to vote on a back-to-work order and/or third-party implementation of revised contract terms.

The Coordinated Bargaining Coalition represents 105,000 workers or nearly 90 percent of unionized railroad workers.

The other unionized workers are members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees and the Mechanical Division of SMART. Since July 2021 those unions have been engaged in mediation with carriers under the guidance of the NMB.

Representing carriers is the National Carriers’ Conference Committee, an arm of the National Railway Labor Conference.

NCCC represents most Class 1 carriers and several smaller railroads. However, some bargaining over some components of labor contracts is conducted directly between labor and individual carriers.

CSX, for example, participates in the national talks for wages, benefits and work rules for all non-operating crafts but limits its participation in talks for benefits for operating crafts.

Smaller railroads limit their participation in national contract negotiations to benefits issues.

Canadian Pacific is not an NCCC member and bargains separately with its unionized workers. Canadian National also bargains separately on wages for workers in U.S. train and engine service.

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Unions Report Little Progress in Contract Talks

September 24, 2021

Although no agreement is imminent railroad labor unions continue to talk with the nation’s railroads about a new contract although progress has been slow to achieve.

The Coordinated Bargaining Coalition, which represents the unions, said in-person bargaining sessions resumed in August. The two sides have been meeting since early 2020.

The protracted nature of the talks is not unexpected as it typically has taken years for unions and railroads to hammer out an agreement.

The CBC said this week that it has not received any carrier proposals since January 2021 that  it considers “worthy of consideration.

In a statement, the CBC said its position is that the unions are not going to accept a concessionary agreement on a voluntary basis.

A CBC statement said union workers believe they have been treated like expendable workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our members are infuriated that they have worked through these conditions without a wage increase in over two years and it is unacceptable that the nation’s rail carriers continue to stonewall CBC unions in our effort to settle our contract negotiations on a voluntary basis,” the statement said.

BLET Sets Up Website for Negotiation Updates

January 22, 2020

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen has established a website to provide its members with information about contract talks with the nation’s Class 1 railroads.

BLET is one of 10 unions that is negotiating with the National Carrier’s Conference, which represents the railroads over a new contract.

Other unions involve are American Train Dispatchers Association; BLET/Teamsters Rail Conference; Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; International Association of Machinists; International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers–Transportation Division; International Brotherhood of Boilermakers; National Conference of Firemen and Oilers; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; Transport Workers Union of America; and Transportation Communications Union/IAM (TCU), including TCU’s Carmen Division.

The unions represent 105,000 railroad workers and comprise over 80 percent of the workforce that will be affected by this round of negotiations.

Under the federal Railway Labor Act the current collective bargaining agreements remain in force indefinitely.

Class 1 Collective Bargaining to Start Jan. 26, CSX to Talk Separately With Unions on Wages and Work Rules

January 16, 2020

Collective bargaining between U.S. Class 1 railroads and their unions will get underway on Feb. 26 in Washington.

However, CSX has said that it plans to negotiate with the unions separately on wages and work rules.

The six Class 1 railroads make up the National Carriers’ Conference Committee that represents their interests in labor negotiations.

But CSX said this week it will only participate in that bargaining on matters of health and welfare. It is not clear when CSX will begin meeting with its unions other than it will be later this month.

Negotiating sessions this year involving the Carriers’ Conference are also slated to be held in Cleveland, Chicago and Omaha, Nebraska.

Labor unions, which represent 125,000 railroad workers that involved in the contract talks include: American Train Dispatchers Association, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, International Association of Machinists, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Transport Workers Union of America, Transportation Communications Union, and SMART-Transportation Division.

Contract negotiations take place every five years and are governed by the Railway Labor Act, which seeks to avoid major railroad strikes because of their potential to harm the U.S. economy.

Railroad labor agreements do not have expiration dates and negotiations can take years to complete.

Observes expect negotiations this year to be contentious as railroads push for single-person crews with conductors to be made into ground-based positions.

Railroads, Unions Bracing for Tough Talks

November 5, 2019

Class 1 railroads are seeking contract changes pertaining to minimum train-crew staffing related to implementation of train-safety enhancing positive train control as the industry begins its next round of collective bargaining.

The National Railway Labor Conference, which represents the carriers, has notified its 12 craft unions that it also wants to talk about employee cost-sharing of escalating healthcare insurance costs, and liberalization of work rules to allow carriers greater flexibility in assigning jobs.

In notifying the unions of its desire to begin direct contract negotiations in January, the NRLC said its broad proposals are seeking to address “the need to adapt workplace practices to modern technologies, aggressively move healthcare plan design and features toward mainstream standards and achieve better health outcomes, and reach an overall fair and competitive labor cost structure to position the railroads for long-term success in the face of the many industry challenges.”

The talks are expected to be continuous and if the most recent bargaining is any guide drag on for more than a year.

The last round of bargaining began in November 2014 and went through 2018 when the last of the craft unions ratified a new agreement.

The 1926 Railway Labor Act contains provisions to discourage work stoppages or lockouts. The last national railroad strike occurred in 1992.

Federal law also requires that the existing collective bargaining agreement does not expire.

However, the current pact had a contract reopening clause set for Jan. 1, 2020, and the carriers have exercised their right to invoke it.

In response, 10 of the 12 craft unions have formed a coordinated bargaining coalition. Those unions represent about 85 percent of the 125,000 unionized rail workers.

Unions in the bargaining coalition include the American Train Dispatchers Association, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, International Association of Machinists, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Transport Workers Union of America, Transportation Communications Union/Brotherhood Railway Carmen, and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail & Transportation Workers Transportation Division/Railroad Yardmasters of America.

The union coalition in a joint statement described the latest bargaining as the “most critical” in a generation.

The statement said the coalition understands “the importance of each union’s autonomy to pursue membership-specific goals within a framework of broad solidarity to defend and improve the wages, benefits and working conditions of our members.”

Two unions, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail & Transportation Workers Mechanical Division plan to negotiate with the carriers separately.

The 10-member union bargaining coalition is expected to resist many of the demands of the carriers, including the efforts to reduce crew size, change work rules, and reduce their compensation.

The carriers are expected to seek rule changes that will redeploy conductors to ground-based positions and to end the practice on most Class 1 railroads that each train have a two-person crew of a conductor and locomotive engineer.

The carriers have described this change as “a natural continuation [of the] evolution” that moved conductors from the caboose to locomotive cab as new technologies, such as end-of-train devices, were installed.”

Underlying these efforts is the desire of Class 1 railroads to recoup some of the billions of dollars they have invested in positive train control systems that have been mandated by federal law on many of their routes.

If unions refuse to negotiate over crew consist on a multi-carrier basis, or the parties are unable to agree on changes in crew consist, the carriers have said they will propose an adjustment to compensation.

The NCCC represents all of the Class 1 carriers and 24 smaller railroads, including Conrail Shard Assets, Belt Railway of Chicago and the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis.

The Class 1 group also includes the U.S. operations of Canadian National, which still exist as separate entities on paper even if all operate under the CN umbrella.

Some railroads are in the bargaining entity for limited purposes.

CSX, for example, participates in national bargaining for wages, benefits and work rules that apply to non-operating-craft unions (such as clerical, mechanical and maintenance), but handles its own negotiations on wages and work rules with its operating craft unions representing train and engine workers.

An analysis published by Railway Age noted that since 2005, unionized rail-worker compensation (wages plus the value of benefits) has increased by 43 percent, versus 29 percent for other American workers.

Compensation of the highest paid rail workers has increased by some $33,000 annually while those on the lower wage rungs have seen their pay increase by about $16,000 annually.

The average compensation of rail workers of more than $120,000 annually places them among the top 6 percent of wage earners nationwide and above many occupations that require advanced college degrees.

However, Railway Age noted that with rail traffic in decline, coal traffic collapsing, and the U.S. economy slowing, in part due to trade wars and other global conditions, railroads economics are not what they once were.

The railroads are expected to seek changes in the compensation they pay their workers that are tied to market conditions and wages and benefits in comparable industries.