Posts Tagged ‘SMART Transportation Division’

Unions Reject Advance Pay Hike Proposal

April 26, 2022

Railroad labor unions have rejected a proposal by railroad management to give union workers advance payments that would be expected to be due under a future collective bargaining agreement.

The proposal by the National Carriers’ Conference Committee would have paid workers advance payments of up to $600 per month.

After the unions turned down the offer, the NCCC said it would leave the offer on the table in case the unions changed their mind.

The advance pay proposal is similar to one that CSX reached recently with its workers who are members of the SMART Transportation Division.

In statements issued following their rejection of the NCCC advance pay proposal, unions described the offer as inadequate.

The 10 unions, which are represented by the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition, have been bargaining with the NCCC since January 2020.

Those talks were slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic and even in the best of circumstances it can take years to reach an agreement.

The talks are currently in mediation before the National Mediation Board, which earlier this month rejected a request by the SMART Mechanical Division and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division to be relieved of mediation with the NCCC.

The CBC in a statement accused the NCCC of not negotiating in good faith.

The statement cited how Class 1 railroads have reported record fourth quarter 2021 profits and record first quarter 2022 profits and then refused to withdraw their demands for work rule and health and welfare concessions. 

“Even more ridiculous and unacceptable is their refusal to agree to meaningful wage increases while making record profits during the highest level of inflation seen in years,” the CBC statement said.

It said the NCCC offer of an advance pay hike would have to be repaid from any back pay payments that may be in the ultimate national contract settlement, and said the offer was somewhere between a loan and a pay day advance.

For its part, the NCCC said in a statement, “Rail employees work hard and deserve compensation increases that keep them among the best paid employees in the nation.”

The NCCC statement described the issues in the current collective bargaining talks as complex “and there is more work to be done before complete agreements can be finalized.”

Railway Age contributing editor Frank Wilner wrote on the trade journal’s website that it appears the unions are seeking release from mediation so that “they can set in motion Railway Labor Act provisions leading to a nationwide railroad work stoppage this summer.”

CSX to Increase Pay for Union Workers

April 21, 2022

CSX said it has reached a tentative pact with the SMART Transportation Division to provide advance payments to union members on future wage increases expected in national contract negotiations.

Those negotiations are between the National Carrier’s Conference, which represents railroad management, and the various unions representing railroad workers.

Those talks are currently in mediation. The talks began in November 2019 and typically take years to conclude.

In a statement, CSX CEO James Foote said his company’s workers have gone without a pay increase for a long time but continued to come to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of the advance payment agreement, CSX also said it would provide identical payments to all unionized employees.

Unionized workers will receive payments of up to $600 from May through the end of the year, or until a negotiated wage settlement is reached, whichever is earlier.

The advance payments would be deducted from any retroactive or future pay increases that may be agreed upon at national bargaining, CSX officials said.

Union OKs New Pact with South Shore Freight

April 9, 2022

Members of the SMART Transportation Division at the Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad have ratified a new contract.

The five-year pact covers 32 workers, including locomotive engineers, conductors and brakemen.

The contract runs from Oct. 1, 2021, to Sept. 30, 2026.

The South Shore is a unit of Anacostia Rail Holdings and provides freight service on 127 route miles between Chicago and South Bend, Indiana, and Chicago and Kingsbury, Indiana.

It transports 60,000 carloads annually of steel products, chemicals, coal, grain, minerals, scrap metal, pig iron and roofing materials.

Although it uses some of the same tracks as the South Shore Line commuter railroad, the two operations are separate and not under the same ownership.

Union Rips PSR in Letter to STB

April 6, 2022

The adoption of the precision scheduled railroading operating model is the culprit behind service issues that Class 1 railroads are having, a railroad labor union has told the U.S. Surface Transportation Board.

The SMART Transportation Division wrote in the April 1 letter that the nation’s freight railroad network is “at a breaking point” and “cannot sustain any more reductions.” The union, which represents 40,000 railroad workers, wants the STB to intervene.

The letter said crew shortages that Class 1 railroads have blamed for service issues are self-inflicted hindrances that railroads brought on by their adoption of PSR.

The concerns raised by the union are similar to those raised earlier this spring by a trade association that represents grain shippers.

Railroads reduced their worker ranks during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic when freight traffic plunged.

But after traffic began rebounding, some furloughed workers chose not to return to their railroad jobs. The Class 1 carriers have characterized this as being higher than usual compared with previous times when furloughed workers were recalled.

The union letter said about 33 percent of the country’s railroad workforce was laid off when PSR was initially implemented and thousands of locomotives were placed in storage.

One hallmark of how PSR has been implemented in the United States by Class 1 railroads is operating fewer, but longer, trains.

Class 1 railroads have been actively seeking to hire new conductors in areas with acute crew shortages but have bumped up against a tight labor market.

The union letter cited other operational changes that have adversely affected freight service.

It said that in an effort to save fuel crews have been restricted from operating trains at maximum authorized speeds.

“ . . . they are directed to limit the locomotive’s throttle position, acceleration, and overall train speed to no more than forty  mph. This not only impedes system fluidity, but it greatly hamstrings a railroad’s ability to service customers.”

As the union sees it, Class 1 railroads are now in a position of not having enough crew members or locomotives “to operate the necessary number of trains required to provide a level of service that equals the current level of demand.”

The union’s letter also took aim at railroad attendance policies that the union said require train crews to work 29 out of 30 days per month.

 “Not only has morale dropped to an all-time low, but employees are also leaving the industry in unprecedented numbers,” the union wrote.

Court Consolidates Vaccine Rule Lawsuits

November 24, 2021

A federal court in Illinois has consolidated lawsuits involving Class 1 railroads and their unions over COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

The action was taken by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and involves Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, BNSF, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and two other unions.

The Class 1 railroads have cited a federal executive order in requiring their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

The unions argue that the vaccine edict by the carriers violates the collective bargaining process.

In a related development, unions representing Amtrak workers have filed suit over the passenger’s carrier’s vaccination requirement.

BLET and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) said they generally support vaccination but want Amtrak to engage in collective bargaining over the issue.

The unions claim Amtrak is negotiating directly with employees rather than talking with their unions.

The lawsuit against Amtrak raised many of the same issues as those in the litigation involving NS and UP.

Amtrak is requiring its workers to submit proof of vaccination before Dec. 8. Those workers who have received just dose of the vaccine have until Jan. 4, 2022, to show proof of being full vaccinated.

The carrier has threatened to fire workers who failed to comply with the rules.

2 Unions Sue NS Over Vaccination Rule

November 2, 2021

Two railroad labor unions have sued Norfolk Southern in an effort to halt the Class 1 carrier from imposing a rule requiring workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

The SMART Transportation Division along with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Chicago Division.

The unions acted after NS filed its own lawsuit seeking to stop unions from suing it over the vaccine rule.

NS has said in public statements that it imposed the vaccination rule due to an executive order issued by President Joseph Biden requiring federal contractors to mandate vaccinations for their employees by Dec. 8.

In their lawsuit, the unions contend that a mandatory vaccine requirement must be negotiated under the Railway Labor Act.

Unions Seek Injunction Against NS Over Job Assignments

October 29, 2021

Two railroad labors unions are seeking an injunction to force Norfolk Southern to honor trade craft boundaries between locomotive engineers and train conductors.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the SMART Transportation Division filed motions in a federal court in Ohio seeking a preliminary injunction to restrain NS from ordering workers in one craft to perform the duties of another craft.

The motions were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division.

In a news release, the two unions indicated their objective is to prevent NS from forcing engineers to work as conductors. The unions also want to stop NS from disciplining engineers to refuse to perform conductor duties.

The unions want a court to order NS to reinstate BLET members who have been disciplined as a result of the dispute and to expunge all related discipline records.

SMART-TD said in the release that it wants the court to order NS to maintain the status quo in which SMART-TD-represented train service employees are assigned to jobs in those crafts and classes.

Unions Say NS Forcing Engineers to Work as Conductors in Violation of Labor Contract

October 2, 2021

Two railroad labor unions are taking Norfolk Southern to court over what they claim is the Class 1 carrier’s forcing locomotive engineers to work conductor positions.

The unions say the practice is prohibited by their collective bargaining agreement.

The Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Art, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen said in a statement that NS “cannot lawfully lay off roughly 4,000 conductors and brakemen, and then give their work to another craft.

“Nor can NS lawfully deprive locomotive engineers of the jobs, wages, and working conditions to which they are contractually entitled by forcing them to perform the work of other crafts.”

The statement contends that NS has eliminated more than 35 percent of its operating crew positions since December 2018.

The unions argue that NS wants to eliminate the conductor and brakeman positions and has threatened engineers who refused to work as conductors with being fired for insubordination.

Panel Rules Unions Must Bargain Over Crew Size

July 31, 2021

Railroad labor unions suffered a setback this week when an arbitration panel ruled that crew size is an issue that is subject to collective bargaining.

Unions have long resisted bargaining over crew size on the national level, saying it should be a local issue.

But a federal arbitration panel decided this week that crew size is a national issue.

The decision found that standard moratorium language in decades-old labor agreements do not prohibit negotiations over crew size on freight trains.

Railroad management wants to change train crew staffing practices so that there would be one locomotive engineer per train but the job of the conductor would become more of a ground-based position with conductors having responsibility for multiple trains.

The 2-1 arbitration decision is binding and grew out of a lawsuit launched by the National Railway Labor Conference, which represents Class 1 railroads, to force unions to bargain over crew size in the current negotiations for a new contract.

The arbitration panel was made up of one member approved by labor, one approved by management and a neutral member who in this case is a California law professor and veteran arbitrator.

Contract talks have been ongoing for more than a year and in the meantime federal law requires the previous contract remain in effect until a new pact is reached and ratified by union members.

The Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Union’s Transportation Division (SMART-TD) saw a silver lining in the ruling that the arbitration panel did not mandate any particular outcome in negotiations.

The arbitration ruling also did not mandate that bargaining over crew size be done globally, meaning crew size talks with be done on a railroad-by-railroad basis.

The railroad industry and its unions began contract talks in November 2019 on wages, benefits and work rules.

Unions can be expected to continue seeking to get state legislatures to approve laws mandating two-per crews. Some Democrat members of Congress have introduced similar legislation that would apply nationwide.

The arbitration panel’s ruling requires SMART-TD to bargain with Class 1 railroads and some smaller carriers over crew size matters.

Railway Age reported the arbitration ruling affects more than 60 percent of the conductors at Class 1 railroads, including all conductors employed by BNSF and Norfolk Southern and half the conductors at Union Pacific.

Conductors employed by Canadian National, Canadian Pacific and CSX are not unaffected by the arbitration ruling because their unions were not parties to legal action resulting in the arbitration.

Kansas City Southern recently voluntarily withdrew its arbitration demand and was dismissed from the award by the arbitration panel majority. 

The Railway Age report indicated that railroads was pushing for more efficient operations because of an increasing reliance by carriers on intermodal traffic that is subject to diversion to trucking company, many of which have non-union operators who work for lower wages and benefits than those paid to unionized railroaders.

Intermodal traffic provides lower profit margins that some carload traffic – coal being a notable example – that railroad once relied upon for their financial well being.

Industry observers have noted that the development of positive train control has given railroads an opening to seek to reduce crew sizes by arguing that it will provide for safer operations and thus a second set of eyes in the cab are not needed.

Frank Wilner, who writes for Railway Age, has long argued that “no labor union ever has done better than slow the introduction of new technology.”

FRA Gives Unions Added Time to File Appeals

February 17, 2021

Two railroad labor unions have received additional time from the Federal Railroad Administration to file petitions for review by the Operating Crew Review Board.

FRA rules governing certification of locomotive engineers and conductors require that petitions to review a railroad’s decision to deny certification or recertification must be filed with the OCRB no more than 120 days after the date of the railroad’s final decision.

The FRA’s latest action extends the 120-day limit to 180 days.

The agency said it agreed to extend the time to file appeals due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The extension is a waiver that will expire on Feb. 11, 2022, unless extended by the agency.

The unions that sought the extension were the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the SMART Transportation Division.