Major U.S. railroads have new tentative agreements with four of the 11 unions needed to avert a potential nationwide strike or lockout in December.
The agreements announced this week follow the creation of a Presidential Emergency Board Nov. 5 and a 30-day “cooling off” period that expires Dec. 6.
The National Carriers’ Conference Committee, which represents the railroads, has been in talks with 11 unions dissatisfied with the terms of an earlier rail-labor pact.
The NCCC reached agreement in September with the largest rail labor group, the United Transportation Union, but the other unions refused identical terms.
That raised the prospect of a rail strike or lockout that could cost the U.S. economy $2 billion a day, disrupt supply chains and destroy jobs, the railroads said.
President Obama created the PEB to establish the cooling off period, allow more time for negotiations and recommend terms to the railroads and unions.
The latest agreements are with unions representing railway carmen, machinists and aerospace workers, electrical workers, clerks and other rail workers.
They include the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, The Transportation Communications International Union, the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
“We now have agreements covering over 50 percent of the rail employees in this bargaining round," BNSF Railway Executive Vice President John Lanigan said in a letter to BNSF shippers. “We will continue to work in concert with the other railroads to implement the PEB recommendations with the remaining unions.”
That group includes two of the largest unions, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.
Robert A. Scardellitti, president of the Transportation Communications International Union, said his group had “prevailed” in two years of bargaining.
He said the TCU’s tentative contract, which must be approved in a vote, would offer a 20.1 percent increase in wages over six years, plus a 1 percent bonus. “By any measure, this agreement delivers excellent increases in compensation while holding the line on employee health care costs,” Scardellitti said.
Contact William B. Cassidy at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wbcassidy_joc