Negotiations fail, US railroad workers may strike post 29 September

Unions are demanding unpaid leave time to attend to personal needs without being penalised.

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Almost 5,000 members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District 19 have voted against the agreement negotiated by IAM leadership with the railroads. However, it has been agreed upon that members of IAM will not call a strike before 29 September, giving more time for negotiations and voting by other unions.

IAM District 19 represents locomotive machinists, track-equipment mechanics and facility-maintenance personnel at NCCC freight rail carriers.

Approval is required from 12 unions, but so far only nine had agreed to the tentative agreements. Approval from the remaining three are pending.

The main unions representing conductors and engineers of the trains are hopeful that their concerns regarding unpredictable schedules will be addressed. The unions wish for the railroads to allow workers unpaid leave so that they can attend to their domestic, personal and medical needs without worrying about a penalty. The workers admit that the working conditions are gruelling and have only worsened over the years, forcing many workers to quit the freight industry and seek alternative jobs even if it meant lesser remuneration.

Contract talks continued Wednesday with Labor Secretary Marty Walsh participating again to put pressure on both sides to reach a deal before Friday’s deadline.

The Government hopes that the labour unions and railroads are able to negotiate and strike a suitable deal without disrupting service.

The statement released by IAM states, “IAM freight rail members are skilled professionals who have worked in difficult conditions through a pandemic to make sure essential products get to their destinations. We look forward to continuing that vital work with a fair contract that ensures our members and their families are treated with the respect they deserve for keeping America’s goods and resources moving through the pandemic”.

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