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Railways reject latest proposal from third largest union as strike date looms

Railways reject latest proposal from third largest union as strike date looms
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CNN business

The US railroad rejected a new sick leave proposal by a track maintenance workers’ union, which is threatening to go on strike in less than 30 days without a new contract.

The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division announced last week that its rank and file members have rejected a tentative labor agreement reached in September, setting the stage for a possible strike as early as 11/19 if a new agreement cannot be reached.

BMWED proposed seven days of paid sick leave – up to 56 hours a year – as part of a new contractual arrangement, which Peter Kennedy, BMWED’s director of strategic coordination and research, said was flatly rejected by the railroads.

“It’s totally idiotic,” Kennedy said.

The National Railway Labor Conference, which represents the railways, said the previous interim agreement, which BMWED rank and file members rejected earlier this month, was the “most generous pay package in nearly 50 years of national railway negotiations”.

“BMWED leadership is demanding additional benefits and threatening to strike, this time on the easily debunked premise that union workers are not allowed to call in sick,” the NRLC said in a statement.

If the union went on strike, other railroad unions are expected to picket their pickets, causing the country’s major railroads to grind to a halt and halting the movement of an estimated 30% of the country’s freight traffic.

The railway unions have repeatedly agreed in previous contracts to leave short-term absences unpaid in favor of higher working hours and more generous sick pay for longer periods of absence, the railway management statement said. It was said that other unions on the railways had ratified their agreements with the existing sick day policy.

The union’s latest proposal was modeled after a sick leave policy for federal employees, Kennedy said. Paid sick leave would be credited by one hour for every 30 hours worked. The railroads could recoup hours from employees if they found out the hours weren’t actually being used for sick leave.

“Members are very upset — they feel disenfranchised and undervalued by the railroads,” Kennedy said.

Negotiations are expected to resume in the next two weeks. Both sides issue warnings.

“Now is not the time to table new demands that revive the prospect of a rail strike. The airlines have informed BMWED that its latest proposal will not be accepted,” NRLC said in a statement.

The union said it wants to reach an agreement before the time runs out – but “I personally have my doubts,” Kennedy said, that an agreement will be reached in time.

BMWED represents 23,000 railway workers and is the third largest railway workers’ union.

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