The group representing railroads in bargaining with rail labor unions says it welcomes the move to mediation in the two-year-old negotiations, a move the group representing unions reflects the fact railroads “are not bargaining in good faith.”
The National Railway Labor Conference, which represents its member railroads in national labor matters, says in a Monday statement that it welcomes the involvement of the National Mediation Board in “reaching fair and reasonable national collective bargaining agreements” with the 10 unions that comprise the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition, the labor representative in the national contract negotiations.
The coalition, which represents about 80% of the employees covered by the contract negotiations, said last week those negotiations had reached an impasse and it would file for mediation [see “Unions declare impasse …,” Trains News Wire, Jan. 20, 2022].
The Coordinated Bargaining Coalition, in its own Monday statement, said railroads “have not made a comprehensive settlement proposal that we believe our members would even remotely entertain” and “continue to push proposals that fail to even catch up to the cost of living. From the beginning of this round of negotiations, the CBC has adamantly refused to accept any type of concessionary agreement. Instead, the railroads continue to demand extreme changes to our members’ current benefits and attempt to unilaterally impose work rule changes that would further erode our members’ already-taxed standard of living.”
Crew size is a primary focus in the negotiations. The railroad group indicated before the start of negotiations that it sought to make the conductor’s position a ground-based, rather than in-cab, job [see “Class I roads make official their desire for one-man crews,” News Wire, Nov. 5, 2019].
Brendan Branon, chairman of the National Carriers’ Conference Committee, which represents most major railroads in the current bargaining, said in a statement that “the railroads have maintained that this bargaining round presents a unique opportunity for the parties to work together and reach voluntary agreements that address challenges and opportunities facing the freight rail industry for the benefit of all stakeholders, including rail employees.”
The railroads say they seek an agreement that, along with addressing salaries, will “modernize the national railroad health plan and also update certain outdated work rules that, in some cases, have not been revised in decades.”
The National Railway Labor Conference also says some railroads represented by the NCCC are pursuing local discussions with the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division (SMART-TD) regarding the ground-based conductor proposal. It says that it is already in mediation with another labor coalition including the Bortherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and SMART-MD, the Mechanical Division of SMART.