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BNSF, Norfolk Southern reach sick leave agreements with several unions

BNSF, Norfolk Southern and members of two union groups have struck sick leave agreements, the groups said Thursday. 

BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B) reached sick leave agreements with members of the Transportation Communications Union (TCU) and the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers (NCFO). 

The agreement with TCU is for insourced intermodal equipment operators, which BNSF says represent a majority of that union’s members at the railroad. Other TCU members at BNSF already have paid sick days as part of their existing agreement, according to the railroad. 

“We hope these are the first of a series of new agreements across our other crafts who did not already have individual paid sick days prior to the recent national bargaining round,” BNSF said in a statement. “Today’s agreements are part of a collaborative effort aimed toward modernizing the work environment and addressing quality of life.”

The railroad added that it is continuing dialogue with other unions about paid sick leave days.

BNSF’s two agreements call for an additional four paid sick days, plus the ability to convert three personal leave days to sick leave. 

NCFO confirmed it reached the agreement with BNSF. Its union members will accrue 32 hours of paid sick time.

“I applaud BNSF for coming to the bargaining table and adjusting this wrong and making it right,” NCFO President Dean Devita said in a statement. “BNSF’s Rob Karov, vice president of labor relations, and Derek Cargill, general director of labor relations, bargained in good faith with the NCFO, and we appreciate their professionalism and courage during the negotiations.”

But the agreement with BNSF was not the only one recently reached by NCFO. 

NCFO also completed a deal with NS (NYSE: NSC) for paid time off for illness and wellness. The union described those terms as the same as the deal reached with BNSF.

Devita also thanked Christopher Decker, NS vice president of labor relations, Mike Pistone, NCFO director of railroads, and Travis Prothro, NCFO assistant director of railroads, for their work in the negotiations.

“It is time for all the railroads to stop avoiding this issue and follow the lead of NS and join the NCFO at the bargaining table to do what is right for their employees and the NCFO members,” Devita said. “It makes more sense reaching agreement across the bargaining table, but if not, we will do what we have to do. The NCFO invites all unsigned railroads to join us at the bargaining table.”

WIth these latest deals, all four of the major U.S. Class I railroads — BNSF, NS, Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) and CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) — have reached sick agreements with at least two rail labor unions. UP signed deals with NCFO and the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen (BRC), while CSX has agreements with six union groups: NCFO, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way – Employes Division (BMWED), and two divisions each within the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and BRC.

Earlier this week, NS said it also reached a sick leave pact with BMWED.

The recent activity between the unions and railroads drew praise from the Surface Transportation Board on Wednesday.

“These types of collaborative efforts to tackle ‘quality-of-life’ issues should result in the further strengthening of our national rail network by promoting both retention of existing workers and providing incentives for potential new hires,” STB said in a statement. “Rail labor is the backbone of our national rail network, and it is therefore imperative that the rail labor force be strong, vibrant and healthy.”

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