Sunday, December 4, 2011

US Railroads Avoid Freight Crippling Stoppage

Two More Unions Sign Up To Wage Accord
Shipping News Feature

US – The impending strike of railroad workers which we covered in our rail freight news in November looks to have been averted after both the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the American Train Dispatchers Association reached agreement with employers’ representatives. The settlement leaves one major union left to agree terms to avoid action which logistics analysts predicted could cost $2 billion a day.

The employers’ representatives, the National Railway Labor Conference, has agreed to extend talks to terminate all possibility of a strike until the 8th February, thus avoiding a vote by politicians banning the withdrawal of labour by the unions. Twelve unions have agreed improved terms for their members, an agreement which will see phased increases in pay and conditions over the next six years said to be worth in the region of 20%.

The last union to hold out is the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees which represents around 25,000 of the 130,000 or so rail workers affected. If the strike had gone ahead as scheduled after a moratorium on strike action was called under US law when talks collapsed in September it would have caused severe damage to the country's supply chains with over 40% of long distance freight in North America being carried by rail. News of the settlement was welcomed by industry insiders with Association of American Railroads President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger commenting:

“The goal of the nation’s freight railroads, from the start of bargaining almost two years ago, has been to reach voluntary settlements with all of its rail unions. These agreements bring the industry closer to achieving that goal. Freight rail touches nearly every sector of our economy, and we are committed to finalizing the remaining agreement so that we can continue to deliver for the tens of thousands of American businesses that rely on rail, and the hundreds of thousands of Americans who use passenger rail to commute to work every day.”