NS reaches sick leave agreements with 2 more unions
Norfolk Southern has reached sick leave agreements with two more unions, with approximately 650 employees being affected.
The agreements are with the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, Transportation Workers – Mechanical Department and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, according to NS’ (NYSE: NSC) news release. Both unions had also recently reached sick leave agreements with western U.S. railroad BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B).
The agreements call for up to seven paid sick days per year for members. There will be four new days of paid sick leave, plus an option to use up to three additional days of existing paid time off as sick leave, NS said Friday.
The new agreements with the two unions bring the total number of sick leave agreements to six for NS. In February, NS reached deals with the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, which affected 200 workers, and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way – Employes Division (BMWED), which affected 3,000 employees.
NS has also reached sick leave agreements with the Transportation Communications Union and the American Train Dispatchers Association.
In an unrelated event, BMWED leadership in Ohio criticized NS for bringing up the issue of automated track inspection (ATI) at the early stages of negotiations over sick leave. Ohio is where NS has had a number of incidents in recent weeks, including a Feb. 3 derailment of a train that involved the controlled release of vinyl chloride from five tank cars. NS had asked BMWED to withdraw its objections before the Federal Railroad Administration over ATI, which uses machines to scan the track structure for track defects, but BMWED refused. The condition was later dropped.
The railroad said it is “actively engaging” with all union leaders on ways to enhance quality of life and work predictability for craft employees.
“When we completed national negotiations that provided historic wage increases and platinum benefits, we committed to immediately begin work at the local level to address the desire for paid sick leave and other quality of life benefits,” NS President and CEO Alan Shaw said in a release. “We did just that, and with today’s announcement, six of our twelve unions now have locally negotiated paid sick leave benefits.”
Union Pacific names new SVP of transportation
Union Pacific has named former CSX executive Brian Barr as senior vice president of transportation, effective April 15, the railroad said Monday.
Barr, who will report to UP executive operations officer Eric Gehringer, will be responsible for overseeing UP’s transportation operations.
“Union Pacific has been keenly focused on our operations and Brian’s appointment underscores this commitment,” President and CEO Lance Fritz said in a release. “Brian is a deeply experienced and lifelong railroader with a proven track record of improving network operations and workforce productivity and has fostered important customer relationships. Brian’s addition to Union Pacific bolsters our broad talented team of operators as we continue our [precision scheduled railroading] journey to deliver consistent, reliable and safe service to our customers while driving long-term sustainable growth.”
Barr most recently served as CSX’s (NASDAQ: CS) senior vice president of network planning, where he oversaw network operations, network systems and services, and intermodal operations functions, according to UP. He has also served as senior vice president of operations north, senior vice president of engineering and mechanical, and president of mechanical. In those roles, he coordinated and oversaw support functions related to mechanical operations, engineering and safety, and he gained experience in maintaining and improving locomotive reliability and rail car availability, UP said. He joined CSX in 1998 and his tenure at CSX spans over 25 years.
“I am excited to join Union Pacific and look forward to working closely with the Operations team as we continue to work on behalf of our customers and communities,” Barr said. “At a time when safety is a critical priority for the industry, I am committed to enhancing the company’s transportation network, improving safety and maintaining Union Pacific’s reputation as the strongest franchise in America.”
Amtrak to explore New York-Atlanta-Dallas-Fort Worth route
Passenger rail carrier Amtrak plans to work with the Southern Rail Commission (SRC) to secure federal funding that would enable the two entities to explore developing a new service offering from New York City to Atlanta to Dallas-Fort Worth.
This new route would involve expanding a section of the Amtrak Crescent route from Meridian, Mississippi, to Texas. The route would traverse Mississippi and Louisiana and would follow along Interstate 20.
The service is significant for freight rail because Amtrak often operates on tracks that are owned by a Class I railroad. In this instance, Amtrak secured an agreement with Canadian Pacific (NYSE: CP) to perform a study. CP acquired the route because it is seeking to merge with Kansas City Southern (KCS), a co-owner of the route. Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) is the other co-owner, according to a Friday release by Amtrak.
CP’s acquisitions of the route as well as KCS are still pending regulatory approval. Amtrak endorsed the CP-KCS merger last year; CP, KCS and Amtrak have also agreed to explore expanding Amtrak service on a route owned by KCS between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The idea of establishing service between Atlanta and Dallas and link this service to New York City has been around for more than 20 years, according to Amtrak. The recent Infrastructure Act paves the way to potentially bringing this idea into fruition, Amtrak said.
“As the entity responsible for providing the nation’s long-distance intercity passenger rail service, Amtrak will work with our partners to seek the funds needed to study expansion and improvement options where strong stakeholder support exists and initial analysis show opportunity,” Amtrak Network Development Vice President Nicole Bucich said in a release. “With the encouragement and support of federal, state and local officials, this application is the first step in determining the feasibility of this concept and the benefits and challenges, including federal funding commitments, of expanding Amtrak service to the I-20 route.”
If the Federal Railroad Administration funds the study via the federal-state partnership and the scenario produces a viable business case, Amtrak would partner with SRC and others to seek federal capital and operating support to initiate the service, Amtrak said.
Plans to explore expanding Amtrak service between Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth come as SRC said in Amtrak’s release that Amtrak and SRC have made headway in developing a new corridor service between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama. Amtrak, NS and CSX, and the Port of Mobile said last November that they had reached a settlement that could resolve issues surrounding the new corridor service.
Surface Transportation Board names new members to rail-shipper advisory council
The Surface Transportation Board has named two new members to its Railroad-Shipper Transportation Advisory Panel (RSTAC.)
Richard Erstad will represent small shippers, and James “Leggett” Kitchin will represent large railroads.
“I am pleased that Richard and Leggett have agreed to join RSTAC and advise the Board on matters of concern,” STB Chairman Marty Oberman said in a Friday release. “Both new members have extensive experience with operations in environments where commodities need to be delivered effectively and safely to meet the needs of the public. The other Board members and I look forward to working with them both and expect that they will make a positive contribution to RSTAC as we all work to help ensure the rail network remains efficient and viable.”
Erstad is vice president, general counsel and secretary for Hawkins Inc., a specialty chemical and ingredients company. He also serves as chair of the regulatory affairs committee for the National Association of Chemical Distributors.
Kitchin is vice president for industrial products and coal at Norfolk Southern. He manages sales, customer support and marketing for agricultural and forest products, metals and construction, chemicals, and coal.
According to STB, RSTAC focuses on issues of importance to small shippers and small railroads, including rail car supply, rates, competition and procedures for addressing claims. The committee is also charged with developing private-sector mechanisms to address obstacles to effective and efficient interstate transportation. The committee advises not only STB but also the secretary of transportation, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on rail transportation policy.
Last week, STB appointed nine new members to the board’s rail energy transportation advisory committee.
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