ARLINGTON, VA – Oct. 21, 2020 – After a delay during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation’s freight railroads resumed meetings over the last few months with the labor coalitions representing approximately 125,000 railroad employees involved in national bargaining.
The National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), the bargaining representative of more than 30 different railroads, met in July, August and October with a group of 10 unions known as the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition (CBC). The NCCC also held a meeting with a second coalition of unions, consisting of the BMWED and SMART-MD, in September. Additional meetings with both coalitions are scheduled in the months ahead.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the railroads were facing a future of challenges brought about by intense competition across all freight transportation sectors, a steady decline in coal shipments and shift in traffic mix, global trade volatility and customer demands for faster and more reliable service.
In the current round of bargaining, the railroads seek to confront these challenges head on by reaching new, modernized labor agreements that will enhance the industry’s competitive position and ensure railroad employees can maintain their spot among the nation’s best compensated workers. These new agreements are expected to allow the railroads to leverage transformational technologies – including developments in automation and safety – to manage an uncertain economy and long-term structural changes in rail traffic.
Specific focus areas throughout the national bargaining process are expected to include compensation, health care benefits and work rules. In particular, the railroads seek to provide fair compensation consistent with market levels, implement mainstream health plan provisions similar to those offered by other large employers and modify work rules to streamline operations and benefit both the carriers and their employees. The NCCC also is representing several railroads in local negotiations regarding train crew staffing and redeployment of conductors to ground based positions.
Click here for additional information about each of these key bargaining topics.
The freight railroads and unions negotiate under the Railway Labor Act, which is designed to minimize service disruptions because of labor disputes. Under the law, collective bargaining agreements remain in force indefinitely. Without a contract expiration date, negotiators do not work against a fixed deadline. Instead, they proceed through various steps, including compulsory mediation, that facilitate negotiated settlements.
The NCCC looks forward to constructive negotiations with both coalitions and will continue working to reach voluntary agreements that secure a successful future for the industry.