Track Maintenance Workers Want Sick Time Added to New Railroad Contract

    The optimism that seemed appropriate a few weeks ago when President Joe Biden and railroad officials appeared to negotiate a deal that would keep trains moving seems to have disappated.

    At least one of the sticking points now appears to be more money for track maintenance workers, who last week rejected an initial contract offer because they wanted paid sick time added to the deal.

    The contract, the Associated Press reported, already included 24% raises and $5,000 in bonuses.

    According to the AP, Union Pacific CEO Lance Fritz said in a statement he thinks the main reason the BMWED rejected its initial contract last week was that “the details of improved expense reimbursement in the deal were still being negotiated at Union Pacific while workers were voting.”

    Six of the 12 railroad unions that represent 115,000 workers nationwide have approved their tentative agreements with the railroads so far, the AP reported, but all of them have to ratify their contracts to avoid a strike. The unions have agreed to put any strike on hold until at least mid-November while the BMWED negotiates a new deal and the other unions vote on their proposed contracts.

    “Ultimately, I remain confident that we’re going to get our temporary agreements ratified and be able to avoid a strike. That’s still a possibility but I don’t think it’s a probability,” Fritz told investors after his railroad released its earnings report, according to the AP.

    The group that negotiations on behalf of the major railroads, including Union Pacific, BNSF, Norfolk Southern, CSX and Kansas City Southern, said the new contracts should closely follow the recommendations of the special board of arbitrators that President Joe Biden appointed this summer. The railroads said that board rejected union demands for paid sick time.

    “Now is not the time to introduce new demands that rekindle the prospect of a railroad strike,” the railroads said.