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UP, train engineers reach ‘historic’ deal addressing work-life balance

Union Pacific and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) have reached a “historic” tentative agreement that seeks to give engineers a more predictable work schedule, the two groups said Wednesday.

The agreement, which still needs to be ratified by union membership, calls for a schedule that would consist of 11 days on call and four days off. Implementation could take place within a year of ratification.

The arrangement will better manage staffing levels, which could also help support more consistent and reliable service, according to UP (NYSE: UNP). About 5,600 locomotive engineers represented by BLET work for the railroad. 

“The 11-4 work/rest schedule will be life altering for employees who are used to working on-call 24/7, 365 days a year,” said BLET National President Eddie Hall. “We applaud our BLET General Chairmen and Union Pacific’s management for this important step that we believe will improve our members’ quality of life. This significant change in scheduling not only will make life better for locomotive engineers and their families, it also should help Union Pacific retain and recruit employees.”

Said UP President and CEO Lance Fritz: “Union Pacific values its craft professionals and their candid feedback, which have led to these historic changes, improving the quality of life for the locomotive engineers who move the goods Americans rely on every day. Last fall, we promised to address their concerns and find solutions, and we want to thank union leadership for their collaboration on this industry-leading agreement.”

The agreement between UP and BLET comes as fellow Class I railroad Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) recently reached an agreement with train conductors represented by the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division that addresses both scheduling and sick leave. 

Indeed, predictable schedules and sick leave have been key issues for both train conductors and locomotive engineers during the most recent round of collective bargaining between the unions and the Class I railroads. That round was marked by negotiation impasses, as well as the specter of a potential rail strike before Congress intervened last December. 

UP and BLET are still negotiating a sick leave agreement.

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