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BNSF files suit to block potential strike

By | January 20, 2022

Unions are considering walkout over new attendance policy

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Two trains meet on straight track
Two trains meet on straight track
BNSF trains meet in Brookfield, Ill., on Feb. 23, 2021. The railroad is suing to prevent a possible strike by two unions. (Trains: David Lassen)

OMAHA, Neb. — BNSF Railway is asking a federal judge to block a potential strike by two unions began polling workers about a possible strike over the railroad’s new attendance policies, the Associated Press reports.

BNSF filed suit against the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division (SMART-TD), arguing that the issue is a minor dispute, which would not be a reason to strike under federal law. The railroad also said in its suit that a strike could cause “devastating and irreparable harm” and in this case would “strain an already overburdened supply chain.”

The two unions represent about 17,000 BNSF workers. In announcing that they were taking steps toward a possible strike, the unions said they were taking the action because the railroad’s new attendance policy “repudiates direct and clear contract language, and .. will attempt to our our members to report for duty without regard for their medical condition” [see “BNSF unions threaten strike …,” Trains News Wire, Jan. 13, 2022].

The union says the so-called “Hi-Viz” policy penalizes employees almost any time they take a day off for almost any reason. BNSF, in a document sent to employees, said it will improve crew availability “by incentivizing consistent and reliable attendance.” The railroad said it had not updated its attendance policy in 20 years and the new policy will “provide employees with real-time information and greater flexibility.”

6 thoughts on “BNSF files suit to block potential strike

  1. Am I missing something? Does the article state what the new attendance policy would be and how it would differ from the current policy?

  2. Obviously, BNSF’s “new policy” was put in place with total disregard to the “agreed by both parties” current policy. With the Covid still on the loose, sounds like BNSF management doesn’t really give a hoot. Why do they think they are the only company in America that has an attendance problem because of it? Safety is not number 1 anymore?

  3. The upper management don’t appreciate how much the TYE people work at odd hours for the BNSF. Life on the pool service is not fun. 1/3 of your life at home, 1/3 of your life at the away from home terminal, and 1/3 third life on the road. The guys need a life and a day off for family obligations.

    I called crews on the Northern Pacific in 1968 and 1969. Not fun with no people to fill trains.

    Ed Burns

  4. Under the current policy a railroader can take 5 week days and 2 weekend days off per month. Under the new policy you must work 14 days in a row to regain lost points from 1 week day off. A weekend day is impossible to regain. On paper it may seem possible, but if you railroad you know it’s not likely. The Railroads would have you believe this policy makes life better for employees but don’t believe it. These millionaire CEO’s have 1 thing on their minds, Quarterly Statements, not my family.

  5. I work for BNSF as an engineer. The policy punishes individuals for ANY kind of layoff, be it “union business” (for union local chairman), people using FMLA, DIF (death in family), Jury Duty, even using your paid layoffs, such as vacation or paid leave days. What it comes down to in my opinion, is the company HATES FMLA and has no control over it. They feel doctors hand it out “like opioids in the 90’s” and they cannot do anything about it. Under the old attendance policy, you had a “rolling 90 day” of which you were required to be available in “unassigned service” 75% of the time. So in essence, one was allowed 5 weekday layoffs and 2 weekend layoffs each month for a total of 7 unpaid layoffs. Under this new “points system”, there is no “rolling 90 day period”. Instead, you’re given 30 points. Every layoff adds points. For example Mon – Thurs layoff = 2 points, Fri & Sat = 4 points, Sun = 3 points. Holidays and “high impact days” (Mothers Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, Black Friday, along with every holiday day prior and day of basically) = 8 points. Missed call or layoff on call = 15 points. Points only go up, never down, unless you work 15 straight days without ANY KIND OF LAYOFF WHATSOEVER, in which case you earn 4 points. Once you reach 30 points, you’re in violation and subject to discipline and dismissal. After violation the first time and discipline, they reduce you from 30 points to 15 points. So for example, if I layoff one day every 14 days, two layoffs each month, spaced 2 weeks apart, I’d be in trouble within a 2 – 4 month time frame, JUST FOR TAKING 2 DAYS OFF EACH MONTH !!!!!! This Policy is heinous and will bring 80%+ of employees in trouble at some point, many sooner rather than later.

  6. Drew: thanks for your reasoned reply. I got a headache just trying to figure out this arcane system. This is so 19th century. Thank you for doing your job diligently and safely. Blessings.

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