Posts Tagged ‘SMART Transportation Division’

NS Ends Talks to Make Conductors Ground-based Jobs

March 23, 2023

Talks between the SMART-TD labor union and Norfolk Southern over moving conductors to ground based positions have ended.

Instead, NS said, it will focus on working with the union to improve scheduling for conductors.

Union President Jeremy Ferguson said in a statement that scheduling enhancements the two sides are discussing have the potential to provide conductors with fixed days off and greater certainty about their weekly assignments.

The two sides have set a mid-June deadline to reach an agreement.

NS had sought to reassign conductors to shifts and have them spend most of their time on the ground rather than traveling aboard trains.

2 Largest Rail Unions Give Contract a Split Decision

November 22, 2022

The last votes on ratifying a new contract are now in and the tally shows a split decision that could result in December in a national railroad work stoppage.

Members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen voted to ratify the contract while members of the Transportation Division of International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers narrowly voted to reject it.

What happens next is unclear. Most news reports have indicated that a work stoppage – if one were to occur through either a strike, lockout or both – would not occur before Dec. 9.

BLET and SMART-TD were the last of 12 railroad labor unions to release results of ratification voting.

Members of four of those unions voted to reject the contract while members of the other eight unions voted to accept it.

Technically, union members were not voting on a new contract as such but on amendments to the existing contract. Under federal railway labor laws labor contracts in the railroad industry never expire but are instead amended on a schedule of roughly every five years.

However, it can take years to go through that process with the latest talks having begun before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in early 2020.

The amendments that unionized railroad workers voted on involve wage benefits and work rules at most Class I railroads and some smaller railroads.

BLET members, who constitute 20 percent of the unionized railroad labor force, voted to accept the contract by a margin of 53.5 percent in favor to 46.5 percent opposed.

A narrow margin of 50.87 percent of SMART-TD members voted against the contract.

SMART-TD members constitute 30 percent of the unionized railroad labor force affected by the contract amendments.

Notably, railroad yardmasters who are represented by SMART-TD voted to ratify the contract agreement.

What happens next remains to be seen. Statements issued by the unions that rejected the contract indicated they planned to return to the bargaining table.

Statements issued by the entities representing the carriers have said they will not agree to any more contract changes that are not covered by the recommendations of a presidential emergency board that issued its non-binding findings in late summer.

The PEB recommended higher wage increases than the carriers had offered during negotiations but was largely silent on the issue of time off for workers who are ill or need time off to attend medical appointments.

Potentially, Congress could step in and impose a settlement of the labor dispute as it did during the last railroad work stoppage in 1992.

Contract Voting to Last Through Mid-November

September 24, 2022

The ratification process of the tentative railroad labor contract is expected to drag on into mid-November.

Trains magazine reported Friday on its website that the two largest railroad labor unions, the SMART Transportation Division, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, have provided their members a timeline for how the ratification process will play out.

The timeline includes a question-and-answer period in which members are being invited to pose questions about the contract agreement.

As part of that Q&A process, the unions said they might need to return to the negotiating table with the National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents railroad management, to clarify the meaning of certain contract provisions and how they will be implemented in practice.

BLET and SMART-TD represent about half of the 125,000 union railroad workers affected by the recent contract talks. Those workers are represented by 12 unions.

Under the timelines released by BLET and SMART-TD, voting would begin in mid-October with results announced in mid-November.

That would effectively put off a potential work stoppage until after the mid-term elections.

The Trains report also indicated that negotiations continue between the NCCC and the International Association of Machinists District Lodge 19, whose members voted down a tentative contract earlier this month.

A memo sent to members from the union, which represents mechanics, said the talks are making progress.

Members of two railroad labor unions have voted to ratify tentative agreements while the ratification process is ongoing with other unions.

One reason for the Q&A sessions is because some rail workers say they want more concrete details about the changes in sick leave and assigned days off that were agreed to in the tentative pact announced early on the morning of Sept. 15, less than 24 hours before a potential national rail work stoppage.

The Hill, a website devoted to covering the federal government and politics, said some rail workers are wondering how strong the contract language is.

Earlier this week leaders of BLET and SMART-TD told their members that some of the language was still being written and reviewed by attorneys representing both sides of the talks.

Ron Kaminkow, an organizer at Railroad Workers United, told The Hill there’s “a lot of anger, confusion and hostility” toward the new agreement because workers believe what they have been told thus far has been intentionally vague.

In an interview with The Hill, Robert Bruno, a professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois, predicted workers eventually will ratify the agreements but there will be a “sizeable number of ‘no’ votes.”

Bruno said it may be that union negotiating committees “misread what the rank and file would support.”

He said many of the “no” votes will be motivated by rail workers who feel they’ve been abused.

“Usually, there’s a way to kind of figure out money,” Bruno said. “It’s very often issues that go to respect and go to treatment, working autonomy, worker ability to have some control over their life. I think it reflects just how much power employers can have, even under a collective bargaining agreement.”

The Hill report also indicated that many rail workers dread the prospect of Congress imposing new contract terms on rail workers.

That might occur because elected officials fear a railroad work stoppage would disrupt the economy by keeping shipments of food, fuel and other key commodities from moving.

Quoting an unnamed Norfolk Southern locomotive engineer, The Hill report said workers believe that that gives them leverage in getting what they want from railroad management, particularly in terms of work rules.

Contract Ratification Process to Begin

September 20, 2022

One of the railroad labor unions that reached a tentative contract agreement with railroad management last week has told its members it will be awhile until the contract is presented to them for ratification.

The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division told its members last week that contract language is still being worked out by lawyers for both sides.

Trains magazine reported on its website that it would be this week at the earliest before the final contract is available to be distributed to members.

Two other labor unions, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen are expected to begin the ratification process today and count ballots on Oct. 10.

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.