Biden intervenes in railroad contract dispute to block strike

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — President Joe Biden on Friday blocked a railcar strike for at least 60 days by designating an arbitration panel to intervene in the contract dispute and avert actions that could have disrupted all types of shipments.

The widely anticipated move will keep 115,000 railway workers on the job while the referees work Develop a set of contractual recommendations that both sides should consider. Biden had to act before Monday to prevent a possible strike. After the publication of these recommendations, a new round of negotiations is likely.

The President wrote in an executive order designating the arbitrators that he was “notified by the National Mediation Board that, in its judgment, these disputes threaten to materially disrupt interstate commerce to a degree depriving a portion of the country of essential transportation services would. ”

If the railroads and their 12 unions cannot agree on a contract within the next 60 days, Congress would likely step in to prevent a strike by voting on terms or taking other action.

The United Rail Unions coalition said the unions are preparing to take their case to arbitration and believe the latest economic data show the pay rises they are demanding are “more than justified compared to the contribution our memberships have made to record profits.” are the railway companies.”

The National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents the nation’s rail freight companies in national collective bargaining, welcomed Biden’s move, noting that it “remains in the best interests of all parties — and the public — for the railroads and rail labor organizations to settle the negotiations promptly on reasonable terms.” , which allow employees timely and well-deserved salary increases and prevent disruptions to rail traffic.”

“Throughout the round of negotiations, the railways have worked to thoughtfully address the issues raised by both sides, offering wage increases that match labor market benchmarks and rewarding railway workers for their essential work,” the committee said in a statement.

Any prolonged rail strike could cripple the supply chain, which has been slowly recovering from the backlogs and delays that have become common during the pandemic due to labor shortages in ports, trucking companies and railroads as demand for imports surged.

“It’s really in everyone’s interest to avoid a strike,” said Edward Jones analyst Jeff Windau.

The group, which represents Union Pacific, BNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern, Kansas City Southern and other railroads, and unions have expressed optimism this new presidential committee will help them resolve the dispute that began more than two years ago started.

Business groups had urged Biden to take the step to ensure the railroads kept operating. They worry about what a strike or lockout would do to the fragile supply chain, as railroads deliver all kinds of raw materials, finished goods and imported goods that businesses depend on. A rail strike could endanger the health of the economy.

The arbitration panel will hold hearings with both sides to learn more about their positions before issuing its recommendations in about a month. Unions and railroads have 30 days to negotiate a new deal before a strike could be allowed under federal law governing railroad contract negotiations.

So far, the two sides have remained far apart because workers want pay rises that will offset inflation and cover increased health insurance costs while reflecting the current nationwide labor shortage. The railroads claim the double-digit raises they are offering over the five-year contract, which would go back to 2020, are fair given the raises other companies were giving their workers at the time.

Unions are expecting significant pay rises as the railways have reported record profits in recent years, having laid off almost a third of their workforce over the past six years as part of the restructuring of the facility.

Unions also want railroads to withdraw proposals to reduce train crews from two to one and relax some of the tough workplace rules they’ve adopted in recent years, which they say make it difficult for workers to take time off take.

Agreeing to a new deal would likely help the railroads hire more workers, which they are currently struggling with. The major railroads have said they will each need to hire hundreds more workers to cope with increased demand as the economy recovers and to cope with chronic delays and missed deliveries that have plagued her ministry this year.

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