The Presidential Executive Board (PEB) has issued its recommendations for ending the contract negotiation stalemate between the Class I railroads and unions. The 119-page report recommends annual wage increases through 2024, retroactive wage increases going back to 2020 (the railworkers have not had a pay raise since 2019), plus five annual bonuses and an additional paid day off. The PEB also recommended that union’ concerns over working conditions should be resolved through arbitration rather than through contract negotiations, which could drag on for years
Both sides will have a 30-day cooling-off period to consider the recommendations, during which time the unions will not be permitted to strike or engage in a work stoppage.
While the railroads are eager to hammer out a deal based on the recommendations, the unions are pushing back. Despite the suggested wage increases, the head of the nation’s largest rail unions says the recommendations don’t do enough to address the restricting attendance policies and unsafe working conditions. Workers want the railroads to ease their restrictive attendance policies that they say keep them on call 24/7 and make it hard to take days off. The unions also say that the always difficult railroad work has become significantly more demanding in recent years after major freight railroads eliminated nearly one third of their jobs. While the recommendations of the advisory were a “vast improvement” over the railroads’ previous proposals, said Jeremy Ferguson, president of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Union, “the recommendations do not go far enough to provide our members with the quality of life that they have earned, and that both they and their families deserve.”
In the end, it’s going to be up to the Class I railroads – who have raked in record earnings so far this year – to make a contract proposal that the railworkers could reasonably accept in order to avoid a national shutdown of the rails in mid to late September.