OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Here’s what’s in the tentative agreement the railroad unions won to prevent a potential freight railroad strike.
The final deal was negotiated by the unions that represent engineers and conductors, but the 12 railway unions are likely to benefit from the concessions made by the railways, as the unions that accepted the deals earlier all had provisions in their agreements that would allow them to do so. .
The increases workers will receive under this agreement will be the largest they have received in more than four decades. The rail industry has said average wages for railway workers will reach $110,000 by the end of this five-year deal in 2025.
The financial terms of the deal closely follow recommendations made by the Presidential Emergency Council last month after those arbitrators met with both sides.
Railroad-dependent businesses said a strike would be devastating, and the Association of American Railroads trade group estimated that a work stoppage would cost the economy more than $2 billion a day. The talks included all major US railroads, including BNSF, Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, CSX, Kansas City Southern and Canadian National’s US operations. Canadian Pacific is negotiating separately with its unions.
What is the size of the increases?
Railway workers will receive 24% increases and $5,000 in bonuses under the agreement retroactive to 2020. Railway workers will therefore receive significant back wages of more than $11,000 on average once this agreement is ratified.
How long will the workers have?
The deal includes an additional paid day off per year, but the railroads also agreed to let workers take unpaid time off for doctor’s appointments and medical procedures without being penalized under their rules. of presence.
Unpaid leave is a key concession that addresses some of the unions’ concerns about working conditions. Under the current BNSF and Union Pacific system, workers receive a set number of points and lose points each time they take time off. If workers use all their points, they can be sanctioned or even fired.
What about health insurance?
Workers will have to pay a higher share of their health insurance costs, but their premiums will be capped at 15% of the total cost of the insurance plan. Currently, railroad workers pay $228.88 per month for their health insurance, which is about 12.6% of the total plan cost.
The railways have also agreed to increase the amount they will pay for hearing benefits and for speech therapy and other autism treatments.
The members of the 12 railway unions will have to vote on these agreements. One union already on Wednesday rejected a deal narrowly based on recommendations from the Presidential Emergency Council, but two other unions have endorsed similar deals. These latest concessions could help win support from the union that rejected a deal.
Will the workers support the agreement?
Recommendations from the Emergency Presidential Council included significant increases, but failed to address union concerns over working conditions. Many railroad workers took to social media to say they would vote against a deal that only delivers what the Emergency Presidential Council recommended. It remains to be seen whether the railroad’s furlough concessions are enough to win workers’ support.
Earlier this summer, railway workers voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if the two sides could not agree on a deal. Many workers are frustrated with current working conditions after major railways cut their workforce by almost a third over the past six years. Hundreds of railroad workers left the industry this year as the railroads aggressively hired new employees.
The railways need additional employees to handle all the freight. Shippers have complained loudly this year about delivery delays and poor service, and federal regulators have demanded that railroads improve service.