By Justin Franz
FORT WORTH — BNSF Railway will make adjustments to its new attendance policy that has been heavily criticized by union officials and railroaders alike.
Under the “Hi-Viz” attendance policy that went into effect on February 1, railroaders had a bank of 30 points. If they missed a call or couldn’t work, they lost points. If they lost all their points they could be punished or terminated. The policy has been called “draconian” by labor officials and the railroad’s unions almost went on strike over the policy until a judge blocked such action.
BNSF officials said after having the new system in place for 90 days, they began to reevaluate it and take suggestions from employees. Among the changes that will go into effect June 1, is that employees will no longer lose points if they miss a call to work the day before or after a scheduled vacation. There will also be more ways to earn bonus points: Employees will gain one point if they are available to work the 24 hours before or after a vacation; if they go to work on a “High Impact Day”; or if they go to work on a weekend. Also, employees who are in the top 10 percent of their pool for availability will get seven points every month. Perhaps the biggest change is that employees will be able to earn up to 37 points instead of 30.
In a video posted online, Vice President of Transportation Matt Garland encouraged employees to use points when they needed to and thanked them for the feedback as the new policy is implemented.
But union officials remain unimpressed. In a statement, Transportation Trades Department President Greg Regan wrote, “BNSF’s proposed changes to its Hi Viz attendance policy are unimpressive. These changes do nothing to address the policy’s fundamental flaws. For example, allowing a worker to bank a few extra points will not offset the massive 15 point cost of a worker missing one high-impact day. In addition, it is appalling that BNSF’s response to widespread reports of worker fatigue is to incentivize this exhaustion. Yet, BNSF’s proposal to reward the ‘top performers’, or those who have the top 10% of work hours, is a clear attempt to incentivize these fatigued workers to double down. This will not stand.”