Railroads and workers’ unions have reached a tentative labour agreement to avert the major national rail strike that was looming on the US supply chain.
The deadline for an agreement was set at 16 September.
Parties reportedly spent 20 consecutive hours negotiating before reaching a deal on early 15 September.
The National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), which represents the nation’s freight railroads in national collective bargaining, said tentative agreements were reached with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division; and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen.
Together, the three unions represent approximately 60,000 railroad employees.
“The tentative agreements announced today follow the August 16 recommendations of Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) No. 250, 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,” reads NCCC’s statement.
The last-minute deal avoids planned strike action that would have potentially created massive disruptions to the flow of key goods and commodities around the country.
About 40 per cent of the nation’s long-distance trade is moved by rail, the shutdown would have impacted more than 7,000 trains and cost up to $2 billion a day according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
“The tentative agreement reached tonight is an important win for our economy and the American people,” said US President Joe Biden in a statement announcing the deal.
“It is a win for tens of thousands of rail workers who worked tirelessly through the pandemic to ensure that America’s families and communities got deliveries of what have kept us going during these difficult years.”
In July, US President Joe Biden appointed members for the Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to help resolve disputes between freight rail carriers and unions.
All tentative agreements are subject to ratification by the unions’ memberships.
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The National Retail Federation has issued a statement from President and CEO Matthew Shay following the overnight announcement regarding the agreements.
“We are relieved and cautiously optimistic that this devastating nationwide rail strike has been averted,” reads the statement.
“We appreciate the Biden administration’s intervention on behalf of the businesses and consumers who would have been impacted at a time when high inflation and economic uncertainty are challenging consumer budgets and putting business resiliency at risk.
“We hope railway workers will accept the new terms of the proposed contract and the railway system can continue to operate on behalf of the millions of hardworking Americans who rely on it for their jobs and the economic security of our country.”
Just yesterday, the NCCC announced another further tentative agreement with The National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU.