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Class I railroads offer advance payments amid contract negotiations

The group representing the Class I railroads in contract negotiations with U.S. rail unions is proposing advance payments, but one union rebuffed the offer, calling the amount inadequate.

The National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) is offering advance payments to members of the rail unions currently participating in the negotiations. 

The advance payments would address impacts that rail employees have encountered from the COVID-19 pandemic. They are being offered because the contract negotiations, which started in January 2020, have taken a long time and there is no immediate end in sight, according to NCCC.

The advance payments would consist of monthly payments of up to $600 between May and the end of the year, or whenever a negotiated wage settlement is reached. The advance payments would be deducted from any retroactive, lump sum or future pay increases that may be agreed upon in national bargaining, NCCC said. 

NCCC noted that CSX has pursued its own advance payments option with the union SMART-TD to compensate for the work employees have done over the last two years. SMART-TD members must still review the proposal per the Railway Labor Act.

“Rail employees work hard and deserve compensation increases that keep them among the best paid employees in the nation, ” the NCCC said.

“The railroads want to reach new national agreements with the labor organizations that provide those increases, but the issues on the national bargaining table are complex and there is more work to be done before complete agreements on all open issues can be finalized,” the railroad operators group said.

But the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way – Employes Division (BMWED) was skeptical, saying that the NCCC’s initial offer — a maximum of $4,800 between May 1 and Dec. 31 — would amount to a wage increase of less than 1% per year for the first three years of an agreement. 

“This token offer is inadequate. While we see this as another delay tactic by the railroads, we are continuing to evaluate the NCCC’s proposal and are discussing the proposal with the other Rail Unions,” BMWED said Friday. The union said its comments were directed to the NCCC proposal, which is identical to the one offered by CSX. 

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The FREIGHTWAVES TOP 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes National Carriers (No. 116).