Talks continue as railroads plan to halt operations
US Class I railroads are expected to start shutting down intermodal operations at midweek, or sooner, as talks continue feverishly behind the scenes between the railroads and labor to avoid a rail strike early Friday that would cause a massive disruption to the US supply chain. The Biden administration is said to be heavily involved in the contract talks.
Shippers are in a wait-and-see mode as the obstacle to a deal with the country’s two largest rail unions is about lifestyle concerns rather than compensation, a source close to the negotiations told JOC.com Monday.
Unions argue that the railroads have slashed their workforce to lower operating ratios for the benefit of Wall Street investors, forcing the remaining conductors and engineers to shoulder too much work. Unions oppose work rules that require labor to be on call for up to 14 consecutive days, require employees to come to work with as little as 10 hours off, and to travel several states away with little notice. Unions are also bristling at strict attendance policies, lack of sick time, and penalties for missing work.
Contract deals have been struck with 10 out of 12 rail unions, but the two holdouts are the biggest — the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) — which account for more than 90,000 rail employees necessary to operate trains and maintain the tracks.
Source: The Journal of Commerce online
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