President Obama’s team trying to head off a nationwide rail strike or lockout offered new recommendations on contract terms, triggering a final 30-day countdown toward labor action on Dec. 6 if the two sides still do not agree before then.
The Presidential Emergency Board issued its report on Nov. 5, addressing issues between nearly all the major U.S. railroads, plus some short lines, and 11 unions including locomotive engineers and track maintenance teams. Representatives from both sides expressed concerns but indicated the report could help them negotiate contracts.
The largest rail labor group, the United Transportation Union representing train conductors and some yard workers, had already locked in a separate deal, and the railroads in long-running negotiations tried to get the other unions to accept the same terms.
A. Kenneth Gradia, who chairs the railroad’s bargaining team called the National Carriers’ Conference Committee, said although railroads were concerned with some of the PEB recommendations the board also largely agreed the UTU accord “was an appropriate pattern for settlements with the remaining unions.”
The unions focused on issues not addressed by the presidential board. The maintenance of way leadership set a Nov. 8 session with carriers to try to hammer out a final accord for those workers.
Train engineers said the board went beyond the UTU pattern to recommend larger wage increases, but that union’s leaders still expressed “frustration” with parts of the report for not protecting workers against health-care “cost-shifting” by the employers.