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Unions turn to arbitration in effort to strike down BNSF attendance policies

By | March 24, 2022

BLET, SMART-TD say appeal of court decision barring strike could take years

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Logos for BLET, SMART-TD unions

Logos for BLET, SMART-TD unionsCLEVELAND — The two unions who were blocked from striking over new BNSF Railway attendance policies imposed by BNSF Railway seek to overturn those rules through arbitration.

In a statement Wednesday, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division said they would “proceed as expeditiously as possible to arbitration.” The unions said they would forgo an appeal of a decision of the court ruling barring a strike — because it ruled the dispute was “minor” under the terms of the Railway Labor Act — because it “would not be the quickest or most effective way to stop the BNSF policy.” The time frame for arbitration will “months as opposed to years,” the statement said.

The unions represent 17,000 BNSF employees. They have objected to the “Hi-Viz” rules enacted by the railroad on Feb. 1, saying they penalize employees any time they take time off work for almost any reason, while the railroad says it “must improve crew availability to remain competitive.” [see “BNSF unions threaten strike …,” Trains News Wire, Jan. 13, 2022].

The Associated Press reports the unions say new rules cut the number of days workers can be off, for fatigue concerns or other issues, from 84 days per year to 22, while the railroad says it believes the policy allows “ample time for obligations outside of work, including planned vacations, personal leave days, and unplanned absences.”

8 thoughts on “Unions turn to arbitration in effort to strike down BNSF attendance policies

  1. I work an extra board, which is “unassigned service”. I’m subject to call 24/7/365 days a year. Under the old policy, I was allowed to take off (5) week days (Monday – Friday) AND (2) weekend days for 7 days a month, unpaid. This equates to almost a normal work week of “2 days off per week). Under this new BNSF policy, I can ONLY take a total of (2) weekend days off OR (4) weekdays off (Monday – Thursday) unpaid for the entire month. So I have (1) weekday off each week and work 6 days EVERY week OR I can take off (2) weekend days total (Friday, Saturday, or Sunday) for the month and work ALL the other days. So for each month, I’m forced to be available to work, on a moments notice 28 days with (2) weekend days off OR work 26 days with (4) weekdays off. This is INSANE !!!! I’m working between 240 to 276 hours on duty each month. If I use one of my paid personal days or vacation days, it can take away those unpaid days off based on being “reset” with the points system. This is all FACT.

    1. The Class 1 railroad o work for is worse. We start out a 0. If you work a pool and layoff you get assessed 6 points. Weekends is 10 points. If you reach 28 points, you are subject to dismissal. 30 days to reset the last layoff. Work 28 days in row get a credit against your points. Only FR or company buisness helps you reset points.

  2. The railroad says it “must improve crew availability to remain competitive”. I dunno, maybe hire more people?

    1. BNSF recently boasted they made $8.8 BILLION in profit last year. I’d say they are more than “competitive.” Yet they wonder why they can’t retain existing employees nor hire new ones. It’s disgusting.

  3. As is usually the case in arbitration cases, the likelihood of one side or another prevailing is dependent on which side is paying the arbitration firm. If both sides are footing the bill, or if a “disinterested 3rd party” (e.g. the gub’mint) is paying for it, then a balanced decision is likely. Otherwise, its the “golden rule” (He who has the gold, makes the rules).

  4. I know that railroading is a 24/7 operation but 84 days per year down to 22 seems a bit much. Just in weekends the average worker gets about 102 days off. so they want to cut it down to 11 weekends?

    1. I’m pretty sure this is in addition to REGULAR time off…you know, like when you call out sick or take PTO(paid time off), not regular off days.

    2. There is no REGULAR time off. We are on call 24/7. Those 7 days a month WERE our regular time off. The fact that you used the acronym PTO tells me you know nothing about the railroad.

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