CLEVELAND — Two major rail unions have begun legal action against Norfolk Southern, saying the railroad has been forcing locomotive engineers to work conductor positions, which is prohibited by their labor agreements with the railroad.
The Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Art, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen announced the move on Thursday, saying NS “cannot lawfully lay off roughly 4,000 conductors and brakemen, and then give their work to another craft.
“Nor can NS lawfully deprive locomotive engineers of the jobs, wages, and working conditions to which they are contractually entitled by forcing them to perform the work of other crafts,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and BLET National President Dennis Pierce said in a joint statement.
The unions’ statement says NS has eliminated more than 35% of its operating crew positions since December 2018, after its implementation of Precision Scheduled Railroading, and that the railroad is seeking to eliminate the conductor and brakeman positions. As a result of shortages in those positions, the statement says, engineers have been threatened with termination for insubordinating if they refuse to work as conductors.