OMAHA, Neb. — Approximately 7,500 BNSF train engineers have the opportunity to receive enhanced benefits, including up to eight days of paid sick time and more predictable schedules, if they approve a new deal with the railroad announced on Tuesday.
Under the agreement between BNSF and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen union, engineers will have the freedom to take sick time off without being penalized by the strict attendance policy of the Fort Worth-Texas based railroad. This new deal effectively addresses their quality of life concerns.
While the issue of sick time has been a central point of contention for workers in this industry, the major freight railroads have made significant progress. After facing the threat of a strike last year, Congress intervened and compelled the unions to accept a contract. As a result, more than 77% of these workers have now been promised sick time. It is noteworthy that last year's deal, which included raises of 24% and $5,000 bonuses, did not include sick time due to the railroad's refusal.
In this new agreement, BNSF engineers will receive five days of paid sick leave and will be allowed to convert three additional leave days into sick time annually. This provision surpasses the terms of most other rail worker contracts, which typically offer up to seven days of sick time through a combination of paid days and existing leave days. Moreover, as part of these agreements, railroads vow to compensate workers for any unused sick time at the end of each year.
In addition to the sick time benefits, this agreement will establish a scheduling model across BNSF that aims to fulfill engineers' need for predictable time off. Although certain details may vary throughout the railroad, BNSF has made a general commitment to granting engineers three consecutive days off after they have completed a six-day work week.
Positive Changes for Locomotive Engineers
The recent agreement between the railroad and the engineers' union brings about positive changes for both the professional and personal lives of locomotive engineers. Along with this, there are a number of smaller changes in the complicated rules that determine engineers' work schedules.
Additional Paid Days Off
Under the new deal, engineers will have the opportunity to earn four extra paid days off each year. This incentive is given for every quarter worked without taking any unplanned unpaid days off.
Expanded Schedule Improvements
With this agreement, the engineers' union has successfully negotiated improved schedules with all the major freight railroads. This includes BNSF, Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, CSX, Canadian National, and Canadian Pacific Kansas City. However, sick time deals with CSX and the two Canadian railroads are still pending.
Building Stronger Relationships
Notably, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific have announced sick time deals with all their unions, highlighting their commitment to maintaining a positive working environment. BNSF proudly shared that it has reached agreements with all but one of its unions after this recent deal. The railroad remains dedicated to ongoing dialogue for the few remaining crafts without agreements.
About BNSF Railway
BNSF Railway, owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate, is one of the largest railroads in the nation. Covering approximately 32,500 miles of track in the western region, BNSF continues to prioritize modernization and employee benefits.
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