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BMWED Update on Rail Negotiations

Editor’s Note: This is the Press Release from the BMWED on NCCC’s rejection of reasonable paid sick time in any contract. We at LUEL stand with railroad workers throughout the US standing up for basic labor rights as rail companies continue to pursue super exploitation of railroad workers.

The National Carriers Conference Committee did not mention the primary reason it is opposed to paid sick time off for its Union-represented employees. The precision scheduled railroading business model is largely driven by reduced operating ratio or leanness. To hit profit benchmarks and earn bonuses, management is required to trim workforce as tight as possible. 

Currently, the railroads are all experiencing difficulties with on-time delivery of goods. This is not conjecture. There are frequent complaints from shippers and there was a prominent federal hearing on the matter just this spring in front of the Surface Transportation Board, which has now ordered the Class I’s to report on improvements to service and efforts to increase their workforces.

To hit the numbers required by PSR, the railroads had to maximize all efficiencies. One such efficiency is manpower. Do more with less. That involves keeping the number of employees low, but that means there is no capacity for absorbing reasonably expected absences. As a result, the railroads want all workers to be available to work as much as possible because if someone takes off for an illness or a medical appointment, there is no one to cover for them.

But eventually you must pay the piper. And here we are, staring at a contentious bargaining round between the railroads with their continued record profitability, and the workers they employ – beleaguered, exhausted, and scraped to the bone. Yet again, the carriers have placed their greed above the health and well-being of the men and women they employ.

And so we listen to excuses from the carriers. “You get short-term disability.” “You’re allowed to take time off unpaid – if we approve it.” These are red herrings. They distract from the issue at hand. Rail employees must go to work if they get sick. Rail employees must have a stay-at-home spouse to take care of the kids who get sent home from school sick. Rail employees must never have an emergency. Because, if you’re not at work, we don’t have any back-up. You are Plan A, B, and C because we laid off all the reinforcements, but the railroads plan is for you to keep working and keep making them record profits. 

If the carriers want to end this dispute, provide the standard 56-hours of paid sick time off that is afforded to all federal government contractors.


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