By Justin Franz
CHICAGO — The National Carriers Conference Committee, a coalition of five Class I railroads, announced Monday it had forged tentative agreements with three labor unions representing communication employees, carmen and machinists. The announcement comes as a deadline for a final agreement with all the unions quickly approaches.
The agreements announced Monday were the first since the Presidential Emergency Board announced its findings on August 16. The unions that accepted the tentative agreement are Transportation Communications Union/IAM, Brotherhood of Railway Carmen and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The contracts include a 24 percent wage increase over a five-year period and five annual $1,000 lump sum payments. The pay increase is retroactive to 2020.
The three unions represent more than 15,000 employees. However, an agreement with the other unions, which represent more than 100,000 employees has thus far not become a reality.
Earlier this summer, President Joe Biden appointed a Presential Emergency Board to sort out differences between the two sides. On August 16, it issued its findings and received mixed reviews from the railroads and labor. The railroads said it was starting point for which a final contract could be forged, but labor was less enthusiastic, saying they “fell short.” Last week, both sides met in Chicago to discuss the findings of the emergency board. According to a joint statement from SMART Transportation Division and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen, the meetings did not result in any tentative agreement language that the operating crafts would accept.
“Although no tentative agreement was reached this week, SMART and BLET remain committed to negotiating over issues that are most important to our members, including wages, quality of life, and attendance as well as voluntary time off issues. In addition to those issues, we are seeking clarification on certain aspects of PEB 250’s recommendations concerning health and welfare,” the unions stated.
“We have made it abundantly clear to the Carriers that we are prepared and willing to exercise every legal option available to us, to achieve the compensation and working conditions that we and our families rightfully expect and deserve,” the unions added.
When the presidential emergency board released its findings, that set off a 30-day cooling-off period where neither the unions could strike nor the railroads could lock their employees out. That cooling-off period comes to an end on September 16 at 12:01 a.m.