A strike by rail union workers so close to the holiday season will be quite a disaster for the US economy, but it looks inevitable presently. Of the 12 rail unions in the US, the largest one comprising primarily conductors, has refused to accept the latest wage deal. The deal offers 24 per cent hikes and $5,000 in bonuses.
The deal was rejected by the train and engine service members of the transportation division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD), comprising conductors, brakemen and other workers. Three other unions have also rejected the deal.
Labor unions do not approve of the railroads’ policies pertaining to sick leave and attendance. They are protesting the dearth of paid sick leaves for short-term ailments. The unions have been demanding 15 days of paid sick leave, while the railroads are offering them just one.
If rail traffic stops due to a strike, about 30 per cent of cargo shipments will be stranded, which will impact various sectors including retail and healthcare across the US. Losses to the tune of $2 billion per day may be incurred.
Meanwhile, operators, including Union Pacific, Berkshire Hathaway Inc and CSX feel the wage deal is rather generous and that in the last 50 years such a generous offer has not been made.
In order to cut down on costs and increase profits, railroads have reduced labour costs. Offering paid sick leave will mean hiring more staff.