News & Reviews News Wire Railroads reject maintenance of way workers’ request for additional paid sick time

Railroads reject maintenance of way workers’ request for additional paid sick time

By Bill Stephens | October 20, 2022

Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees negotiating with U.S. Class I railroads after initial rejection of tentative agreement

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The union representing railroad maintenance of way employees, who rejected their tentative contract agreement earlier this month, are seeking additional sick leave benefits in negotiations with the U.S. Class I railroads.

The National Carriers’ Conference Committee, which represents the railroads in collective bargaining, on Wednesday told the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters that the railroads would not accept its contract proposal.

BMWEDlogo“The latest BMWED request for additional benefits is similar to a proposal which was carefully considered and rejected by President Biden’s Presidential Emergency Board and comes weeks after the union entered into a tentative agreement that included the most generous wage package in almost 50 years of national rail negotiations,” the NCCC said in a statement.

Labor leaders had backed the tentative agreement that had been reached with the railroads, noting that it included increases for travel expenses that the union had requested. The rank and file, however, rejected the contract, with 56% of those casting ballots voting against the deal.

“Now, following an unsuccessful initial membership ratification process, BMWED leadership is asking for additional benefits and threatening to strike, this time based on the easily disproven premise that union workers are not allowed to take sick leave,” the NCCC said.

The BMWED this week encouraged its members to contact their senators and representatives regarding the need for paid sick time.

“The push for paid sick time off could potentially lead to Congressional action,” the union said. “While we hope the carriers will acknowledge the concerns of their employees and negotiate with us, it is important that we are prepared for their unwillingness to address quality of life concerns.”

The railroads say employees already have paid sick time.

“The health, safety, and wellbeing of rail employees is a top priority for all railroads. Rail employees can and do take time off for sickness and have comprehensive paid sickness benefits starting, in the case of BMWED-represented employees, after four days of absence and lasting up to 52 weeks,” the NCCC said. “The structure of these benefits is a function of decades of bargaining where unions, including BMWED, have repeatedly agreed that short-term absences would be unpaid in favor of higher compensation for days worked and more generous sickness benefits for longer absences.”

Union Pacific CEO Lance Fritz, speaking on the railroad’s earnings call on Thursday morning, said UP and the union were still ironing out final details of their contract while voting was in progress. That meant union members didn’t have a clear picture of how it would improve travel expenses, he explained. It’s likely union members will approve the deal once they understand what it includes, Fritz predicts.

Six of the 12 rail unions have ratified their contracts with the railroads. Voting will conclude in mid-November, when the unions representing engineers and conductors tally their members’ ballots.

The BMWED’s rejection of the tentative agreement results in a “status quo” period where the union and railroads try to negotiate a new deal. That status quo period will extend to five days after Congress reconvenes, which is currently set for Nov. 14. Assuming Congress returns to session on the 14th there could be no “self help” — meaning a walkout — until after Nov. 19, the union said.

14 thoughts on “Railroads reject maintenance of way workers’ request for additional paid sick time

  1. Why not use trucking hos regulations. 14hrs max on duty, 11hours max driving (moving a train). Then 10 continuously hours off duty.
    And the kicker, no more than either 70hours on duty in 8 days or 60 hours in 7 days.
    The 70Hrs/8days is an absolute limit. Averaged out it makes 8 3/4 hours a day the limit. If you go over the 8 3/4 average you have to get it back down the line.

  2. The next generation of rail workers has already voted “NO”. There will be no next generation of rail workers. No one wants these working conditions, regardless of pay.

    1. Speak for yourself Charles…I’m on of those people that’s all about the money, regardless of working conditions(but then again, I’ve also turned an 8 hour job into a 2 hourof work because I know how to create efficiencies).

    2. You’re so full of it. Nobody and I mean nobody is that good. Eight into six or even five I might could believe but not two.

      But I tell you what. I will give you an entire year’s salary if you can last more than a week doing this job. What do you have to loose. Just hop on a train and ride. According to you it’s that easy.

  3. All the carriers focus on is money and they get quoted all the time by the media as such……… the most generous wage increase in 40 years …….. so what, the money isn’t a sticking point it’s getting time off away from the railroad. In the operating crafts where I work it’s a huge deal and we are headed straight toward exactly what the m.o.w guys are right now. I know it’s hard for the railroads to grasp the fact that money isn’t everything since all they focus on is money, but it isn’t. Many of my coworkers including myself are sick and tired of the railroads working us to the bone and giving us absolutely no time off. The general public has not a clue how a typical unassigned road freight trainman works and if they tried it they wouldn’t last a day. I suppose I’m going to hear the usual …… you know what you signed up for….. you guys make plenty of money……. Don’t you guys get vacation?…. The answer to those typical questions are – yes we knew what we were getting into when we hired out but then the company you work for arbitrarily tells us what we hired out under isn’t enough and we want you to work 28 out of 30 days on call with no time off that changes things ALOT. Yes the money is good but money isn’t everything to some and time with family and friends is important to many. Yes we get vacation time but we don’t go on vacation every week and working upwards of 250 hours a month (which is typical) and not the exception tires a human being out believe me. If you haven’t tried it, try it.Get home in the morning after working 12 + hours and after exactly 10 hours go right back to work, many time twice a day….. Then see how the railroad you work for treats you if you take more then two days off every 14 days.. Yep you guessed it they will in short order fire you for not being a full time employee and not protecting your job. What bewilders me is how the railroads get away with what they do and their availability policies that in the real world would be intolerable at the least and illegal at the best to the work force in this country. It boggles my mind and has for many years yet they’ve managed to either pay off the right politician or some sort of something… who knows, to be able to keep them on the books. When the news media reports about the wage increases in our contracts it infuriates me and many of my colleagues when that’s not what we are looking for. I wish the public and the media would quit reporting on the companies and get a broader perspective on the situation , after all everyone should know there are always two sides to the story. It seems to always fall into the company narrative about how greedy they make us trainmen and enginemen seem but this time it’s not about money.

    1. Eric,
      This is a superbly reasoned argument. thank you for helping those of us not in the craft to understand the concerns.

    2. A buddy of mine who once worked for NS told me this. The railroads are one of the only places that spend months and lots of money training a person and then focus for the rest of their career’s to fire them.

    3. One, it’s in the Railway Labor Act…that’s how they can do it, and two, I asked this legit question of a Facebook group of railroaders and NO ONE, I mean NO ONE would answer me. Just how much time do you guys need to go to the Dr. and/or Dentist. I know that the only one of those I visit every year is my Dentist and that’s only twice. I haven’t seen my Dr. in a couple of years, and at that it was my specialists via a video call just to confirm I wanted to keep taking the medication I’ve been using for the last 30+ years. I only go when I feel like I’m “dying”, not for anything other reason. I order my annual blood work online via a message, he sets up the order, I schedule with the lab and get my results via message. However, it does seem that the railroads like to skirt the HoS(Hours of Service) rules as much as they can. Perhaps the STB/FRA should mandate that all hours be tracked via computer logs(as is OTR hours) and strengthen those requirements. I mean it should be pretty easy to log whether or not someone has been in service for 12 hours(and by service I mean once they “clock in” they’re in service until that 12 or maybe it should just be 10 hours max is up) regardless of whether or not the train moved that entire time. What ever happened to the home and back swapping crews at the midpoint of each respective trains that BNSF tried for a while? I know traffic is embalanced going East/West(more eastbound than westbound). but that’s the whole purpose of scheduling…or at least should be. I could go on, but I don’t have the inclination too…not so sure why the amount of money wouldn’t compensate…friends and family are overvalued in this country!

    4. Hours be tracked via computer?

      What? T&E&Yard employees hours have been recorded on computers for almost 25 years in my own personal experience. It’s very likely computers were adopted long before the year 2000. Train movements are irrelevant to Hours of Service. Who hasn’t heard of crews called and “never turned a wheel”?

      I have never heard of Hours of Service incidental or routinely being violated as it’s Federal law. I’m sure its happened but I don’t think THIS is a thing.

      People can rant about how they’re always healthy and they don’t value family or friends until the cows come home but the reality of the world is, other people do get sick on occasion and need time off and other people do need to spend time with family on occasion and need time off.

    5. I mentioned HoS because Eric spoke about 12+ hours working, then having 10 hours off and immediately returning to work after those 10 hours off.

      Also, apparently you didn’t comprehend my comments about sick time. I know people get sick, I’ve gotten sick, but I know my own body well enough to know whether or not it’s something I need to stay home for or go to work(like the difference between the common cold and bronchitis).

      Family and friends…first you need to take care of your own personal needs. Only after people realize that most other people do not care about them and the only person you can truly rely upon is yourself, only then can you start to interact with family and friends. Family would be more important than friends, but then again, the more time away from them, the more impactful those times you do see each other become. True friends, those few real friends you have, will always be friend regardless of how much time you spend together. You can not see or talk to a real friend for years, but will always act like you just saw each other 2 days ago when you do get together.

      I think the biggest thing that could be done to help this situation is to update the Railway Labor Act so that some of it’s provisions reflect those of standard regulations. Especially in the areas of hours worked and time off…that would solve the two biggest issues and force the railroads to actually fix their operations.

    6. Gerald, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that whom ever did to you what they did caused you to be this way. I’m a married man with four small children. I enjoy all the time I get being home that I can get. My wife likes having a husband and my children like having a father home at some point. I knew what I was signing up for but what the railroad is doing is NOT what I signed up for because believe when I tell you that this was not in the brochure.

    7. Policies aren’t part of the railway labor act our contracts are and they’ve managed to circumvent the contracts with their so called policies and have been able to get judges and politicians to side with them somehow( we all know how) $$$$$$$$$$……

    8. Quote: “not so sure why the amount of money wouldn’t compensate…friends and family are overvalued in this country!”

      Worst worded comment I’ve ever seen.

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