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Status quo period for holdout rail labor unions is set to end on December 9, says NCCC

While the current status of railroad labor negotiations remains in somewhat of a holding pattern, the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC), an organization representing the nation’s freight railroads in national collective bargaining, said last week that the current status quo, or “cooling off” periods for unions that have yet to ratify terms of the tentative agreement between the unions and the railroads have been extended to 12:01 A.M. on December 9.

NCCC said that the Brotherhood of Railway Signalmen (BRS) was the last union yet to ratify terms of the tentative agreement, joining SMART-TD (for one of its contracts), BMWED (Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters), and IBB (Iron Ship Builders, Forgers and Helpers).

As previously reported, these agreements are based on recommendations made by Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) appointed by President Biden, which were released on August 16, and include a 24% wage increase over the five-year period from 2020 through 2024, coupled with a 14.1% wage increase that is effective immediately, as well as five annual $1,000 lump sum payments, with the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), an organization representing the nation’s freight railroads in national collective bargaining, noting that a portion of the lump sum payments are retroactive and will be paid out promptly upon ratification of the agreements by the unions’ membership.

NCCC officials said that although leaders of these unions initially endorsed the agreement, three of the unions continue to demand terms that were rejected by the PEB, saying that they “are in excess of the pattern accepted by all the other rail unions” and have threatened to strike if the additional demands are not met.

“A national rail strike would severely impact the economy and the public,” said NCCC. “Even the threat of one will require that freight railroads and passenger carriers soon begin to take responsible steps to safely secure the network in advance of any deadline. The railroads remain willing to enter agreements that are based on the PEB-recommended framework. Should the unions without ratified agreements remain unwilling to do so, they are expected to strike and Congress may need to intervene—just as it has in the past—to prevent disruption of the national rail system.”

A September report issued by the Association of American Railroads (AAR) explained that a nationwide rail service interruption “would dramatically impact economic output and could cost more than $2 billion per day of a shutdown.”

What’s more, it added that should deals not be reached, Congress will need to step in and act to prevent a service interruption that will harm and impact every rail-served economic sector. Examples of this highlighted in the report include: idling more than 7,000 trains per day; triggering retail product shortages and widespread manufacturing shutdowns; job losses; and disruptions to hundreds of thousands of passenger rail customers.

“This offers the largest wage increase in 50 years, maintains first-in-class healthcare, and it offers major opportunities on the local negotiations, for things like work-life balance and more predictable schedules,” said AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies at the RailTrends conference in New York earlier this month. “It is a massive win for our employees, when you look at the agreement itself, that we are pursuing. I, for one, am thrilled for the [eight] unions that have ratified. I am hopeful that the remaining employees get it done to get the compensation they deserve.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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