On Nov. 23, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED) announced it sent letters to National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC)-represented railroads covered by Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) recommendations stating that the union plans to extend the “cooling off” period from Dec. 6 to Feb. 10, 2012. The NCCC and BMWED have not yet reached a tentative national agreement.
“The BMWED took this action to spare the nation a railroad strike during the busy holiday season, given the still fragile state of the nation’s economy,” said BMWED President Freddie Simpson in a letter notice posted on the union’s web site. “We made this position clear and public so that shippers and Congress would realize the BMWED would not engage in self-help until at least next February.”
The extension also is intended to make the railroads “bargain seriously” regarding away-fromhome expenses, he said. Local BMWED committees will be reaching out to various railroads seeking to begin bargaining on the expenses no later than Jan. 9, 2012, said Simpson.
“I hope those bargaining sessions are productive and can resolve this issue quickly and fairly to the interests of BMWED members,” he said. “BMWED will evaluate the situation in early February to determine if it will offer an additional extension to the cooling-off period, or if once again, we will be engaged in a countdown to possible self-help.”
Also on Nov. 23, the NCCC announced it would join in an agreement with the BMWED to extend the cooling off period to Feb. 8, 2012, if similar agreements are reached with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and American Train Dispatchers Association, which continue to negotiate national bargaining agreements with the NCCC. The extension agreements must be reached by Nov. 29, NCCC officials said in a prepared statement.
The NCCC and three unions remain in a 30-day cooling off period expiring Dec. 6 during which strikes and lockouts aren’t permitted The more than 30 U.S. railroads represented by the NCCC — which include the Class Is — so far have reached 10 agreements covering more than 60 percent of the 132,000 employees affected by the bargaining round.
The cooling-off period extension would “maximize the chances of voluntary agreements,” said NCCC Chairman A. Kenneth Gradia, adding that “it’s critical to the national interest” to avoid any service disruptions during the busy holiday shipping season.
Meanwhile, the National Industrial Transportation League (NITL) on Nov. 23 announced it’s urging Congress to quickly consider and apply the terms of the PEB’s recommendations on both railroads and unions if they fail to reach agreements by Dec. 6 and begin to issue strikes or lockouts.
In a letter to all 535 members of Congress, NITL President and Chief Executive Officer Bruce Carlton said a national rail strike would have an economic impact of $2 billion per day, and that “the nation and member companies of the league cannot be without the vital service of freight rail for even one day.”
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