US freight rail links reach deal with unions

Pimba, Australia - March 13, 2022: Pacific National intermodal container freight train heading east across sparse desert under stormy skies.  Metaphor for business in trouble. Image manipulation - incorporates  sky replacement.

US freight railroads have reached tentative agreements with three rail unions representing more than 115,000 rail staff.

The National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), which represents the nation’s freight railroads in national collective bargaining, reached deals with the Transportation Communications Union/IAM, Brotherhood of Railway Carmen, and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

The agreements are the first to be reached since Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) No. 250 issued settlement recommendations on 16 August.

US President Joe Biden appointed members for the PEB to help resolve ongoing disputes between freight rail carriers and unions.

In July the U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued an open letter to President Biden to avert a nationwide railroad strike as workers awaited contract renewal.

The tentative agreements implement the PEB’s recommendations, which include a 24 per cent wage increase during the five-year period from 2020 through 2024 — with a 14.1 per cent wage increase effective immediately — and five annual $1,000 lump sum payments.

A portion of the wage increases and lump sum payments are retroactive and will be paid out promptly upon ratification of the agreements by the unions’ membership.

“It is critical for all stakeholders – including customers, employees, and the public – that all parties promptly resolve the negotiations and prevent service disruptions,” the NCCC wrote in its statement.

“Accordingly, we look forward to additional discussions with the unions that have not yet reached tentative agreements and will continue seeking voluntary agreements based on the PEB’s recommendations.”

Under the Railway Labor Act, the carriers and the unions remain in a 30-day “cooling off” period. Voluntary settlements with all unions would avert any potential disruptions to rail service after the cooling off period ends at 12.01 am on 16 September.

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