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Weekly rail news roundup: CSX tries to repair relations with SMART-TD union

As part of a broader effort to repair the relationship between the railroads and the unions, CSX is advancing monthly advance payments on future wage adjustments to union employees as both parties continue to undergo labor negotiations. 

CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) made the tentative agreement with trainmen and yardmasters with the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, Transportation Division (SMART-TD). The railroad said it would reach out to other labor representatives to reach similar agreements.  

The Class I railroads, including CSX, and the rail unions have been negotiating over a new collective bargaining agreement since November 2019. CSX said it is unclear how long it may take for negotiations to conclude.

CSX President and CEO Jim Foote said the company decided to offer advance payments because union employees have been waiting for nearly two years for a pay raise and are now dealing with high inflation. He added that the employees “should not be left behind for months and months as we await the complex issues in national bargaining to be settled.”

During CSX’s first-quarter 2022 earnings call Wednesday, Foote further explained the railroad’s rationale for the advance payments, saying that the measure is a step towards repairing the relationship between the unions and the railroads.

“The relationships between the railroads in the union workforce has not necessarily been one of mutual admiration. And we need to fix that,” Foote said, adding, “These guys were out there for two years in the middle of a pandemic, working every single day and night in a chaotic and operating environment caused by surges in traffic. … At the same time, [they] didn’t get a raise. That’s wrong, in my opinion. 

“That’s why we decided to do something about it unilaterally without asking for some kind of give back in the labor agreement. We just thought it was the right thing to do. … CSX is committed to trying to do everything we can possibly do to change decades, if not centuries, of a somewhat dysfunctional relationship with our union workforce. That’s what this is all about.”

The tentative agreement, which SMART-TD members must review per the Railway Labor Act, calls for monthly payments of $600 between May 2022 and the end of the year or until a negotiated wage settlement is reached. The advance payments would be deducted from any retroactive or future pay increases that may be agreed upon at national bargaining. 

SMART-TD did not respond to FreightWaves’ request for comment.

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Wabtec to acquire Trimble’s wayside inspection systems business

Rail technology manufacturer Wabtec plans to acquire Trimble’s Beena Vision business, which is a manufacturer of vision-based wayside inspection systems for the railroad industry.

Terms of the pending agreement weren’t disclosed, and the acquisition is subject to closing conditions.

The acquisition will extend Wabtec’s (NYSE: WAB) digital and electronics portfolio, and the offering will be available for customers worldwide.

“Beena Vision’s systems, coupled with Wabtec’s TrackIQ portfolio, will create a comprehensive wayside inspection offering,” said Nalin Jain, president of Wabtec’s Digital Electronics business. 

He added that the wayside inspection solutions will “enable our customers to monitor the health of their rolling stock assets, which allows them to realize reductions in maintenance costs, safety incidents and to increase fleet availability for revenue generation.”

Beena Vision’s wayside detectors offer users a detailed assessment of train components via non-contact measurements. The assessments can occur while a train is operating and traveling at high speeds, according to Wabtec.

Trimble said it would continue to develop cloud-based Internet of Things rail solutions for rolling stock lifecycle management and focus on products related to railway infrastructure surveying, construction and maintenance. 

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