Class I railroads BNSF and CSX have announced agreements with key labor groups: BNSF reached a sick leave and work-rest agreement with the union representing locomotive engineers, while CSX and the union representing conductors partnered to enhance CSX’s training program for conductors.

BNSF strikes sick leave and work-rest agreement with BLET

Western U.S. rail carrier BNSF has reached a systemwide agreement for sick leave with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), the railway announced Tuesday.

The tentative agreement, which will affect 7,500 BLET members, also addresses scheduled time off.

The sick leave portion calls for up to eight days of paid sick leave, while the scheduling option introduces work-rest options that BNSF says can be implemented in groups or pools throughout BNSF’s network. Locomotive engineers will have an opportunity to receive an “earned day off” quarterly on top of individual paid sick days, BNSF (NYSE: BRK-B) said. 

“This breakthrough tentative agreement comes after several months of negotiations, and pending ratification by BLET’s members at BNSF, it is expected to bring positive changes to both the professional and personal lives of locomotive engineers,” BNSF said in a Tuesday release. “The agreement will allow for more predictable scheduling and enable engineers to take paid sick leave without any penalty. These enhancements will not only contribute to a more consistent service for BNSF’s customers but also aid in the recruitment and retention of employees.”

BLET members are expected to hold a vote in September on ratifying the agreement. 

“The cooperation between BLET and BNSF marks an important step forward in supporting the well-being and satisfaction of locomotive engineers, ensuring a more balanced and efficient work environment,” BNSF said.

CSX and SMART-TD work on conductor trainee program

CSX and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers — Transportation Division (SMART-TD) are working together to enhance the conductor trainee program at CSX by adding an extra week to the program.

Extending the program from four weeks to five will provide additional hands-on experience by having trainees focus on performing tasks in a field setting to increase their exposure to railcar switching scenarios, radio communication, securement of equipment, brake tests and other fundamentals of the conductor’s role, the railroad and the union said Monday. Hands-on training begins in the third week, but the extra week of training at CSX’s training center in Atlanta will reinforce trainees’ comfort level as they operate on first and second shifts, they said.

After conductor trainees complete their training, they start on-the-job training for up to five months at their hiring locations. That on-site training provides conductors opportunities to learn about the physical characteristics and the job assignments of their designated territory.

“Training is the foundation of the CSX safety culture, and investing in employees is the most fundamental way we can prepare our train crew members for a safe, successful career on the railroad,” Jamie Boychuk, CSX executive vice president of operations, said in a Monday release. “The additional week of new-hire training in Atlanta will help conductors strengthen their skills in preparation for their on-the-job training assignment.”

CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) said it consulted with SMART-TD to develop the extended training program.

“We’re proud to continue working with CSX to improve the training curriculum for new hire trainmen, in the same spirit as we’ve worked together to increase compensation and expand our mentoring partnerships for trainees,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said. “More training directly translates to better safety for our members and demonstrates our shared commitment to the CSX safety culture.”

CSX recently announced that its second-quarter 2023 net income fell 15% year over year to $996 million, or 49 cents per diluted share, from $1.18 billion, or 54 cents per diluted share, in the second quarter of 2022.

In a separate release on Friday, the eastern U.S. Class I railroad announced the winners of its 29th annual chemical safety awards for the safe transportation of hazardous materials.

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Related links:

CSX continues to target truck-to-rail conversions

CSX’s Q2 profit slips 15% on lower revenues

NTSB: Fatal Amtrak derailment shows need for more track inspections

BNSF offers additional sick leave days to SMART-TD

Freight rail leaders realize relationship rebuilding required

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