Extension Would Avert National Rail Strike During Busy Holiday Shipping, Travel Period
WASHINGTON (Nov. 23, 2011) — The nation’s major freight railroads announced today they would join in an agreement with the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes to extend negotiations beyond a “cooling off” period set to expire Dec. 6. The extension agreement is contingent upon similar agreements being reached with the American Train Dispatchers Association and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the two other unions that have not yet reached settlements with the railroads. All three agreements must be reached by November 29. Without securing such agreements with each of the three unions, there would be a continuing threat of a strike or other service disruptions after the current “cooling off” period expires.
The freight railroads have reached settlements with 10 of the 13 rail unions covering more than 60 percent of the 132,000 employees in the current round of bargaining and including eight unions that have agreed to implement settlement recommendations made by a Presidential Emergency Board on Nov. 5.
A. Kenneth Gradia, Chairman of the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), the railroads’ bargaining representative, said the carriers would agree to the negotiation extension to “maximize the chances of voluntary agreements. It is critical to the national interest to make every reasonable effort to avoid the threatened service disruption during the busy holiday shipping season and potentially cost the U.S. economy $2 billion a day.”
Without an extension, the unions and the railroads would be free under the Railway Labor Act to exercise “self-help” such as a strike or lockout on Dec. 6. The agreements would extend the “cooling off” period until Feb. 8.
The NCCC represents more than 30 railroads, including BNSF, CSX Transportation, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific in national bargaining with the 13 major rail unions.