Norfolk Southern (NS) on May 18 reported reaching a paid sick-leave agreement with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), representing almost 25% of the Class I’s craft workforce. To date, approximately 98% of NS’s craft employees have entered into paid sick-leave deals, the railroad said.
The new agreement will provide up to seven paid sick days per year to the more than 3,300 NS engineers who are BLET members. This includes five new days of paid sick leave per year and the flexibility to use up to two additional days of existing paid time off as sick leave, according to NS and BLET.
Both organizations reported that this paid sick leave agreement is accompanied by a second quality-of-life agreement that needs to be ratified under BLET’s bylaws. “This second agreement offers additional preservation of earnings unique to Norfolk Southern engineers when they use paid sick leave, as well as greater protection for vacation time, further enhancing the paid sick leave deal,” they said. “The paid sick leave agreement will be effective upon ratification of the second agreement.”
“We are proud to be the first to have reached a paid sick leave agreement for our dedicated BLET membership,” said Dewayne Dehart, BLET General Chairman (NS-Northern Lines GCA). “This trailblazing new deal ensures that engineers finally have access to the time they need and deserve to manage their personal well-being.”
“I deeply appreciate the contributions of our Norfolk Southern engineers and the longstanding partnership we’ve had with the BLET,” NS President and CEO Alan H. Shaw said. “This agreement builds on that relationship and continues our industry-leading effort to enhance quality of life as we become the first railroad to reach an engineer sick leave deal.”
“This agreement is yet another important milestone in our ongoing efforts to enhance quality of life for our craft employees,” said Wai Wong, Vice President, Labor Relations at NS. “I want to thank our BLET General Chairmen for their partnership as we worked to negotiate this important benefit for their members.”
“I want to thank General Chairmen Dehart, [BLET General Chairman (NS-Southern Lines GCA) Jerry] Sturdivant, and [BLET General Chairman (NS-Eastern Lines GCA) Scott] Bunten, along with National Vice President Rick Gibbons, for their efforts in securing this historic agreement,” BLET National President Eddie Hall said. “The BLET is currently working to secure similar sick leave agreements with the other Class I railroads, and I hope this settlement will help bring those negotiations to a positive conclusion.”
In related developments, NS on April 17 reported reaching a paid sick leave agreement with the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen. This followed agreements with the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers and Blacksmiths; International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; Brotherhood of Railway Carmen; International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Mechanical and Engineering Department; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; National Conference of Firemen and Oilers; and Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees. According to NS, two other unions, the American Train Dispatchers Association and the TCU, also have access to paid sick leave benefits from prior negotiations.
Additionally, NS and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers–Transportation Division on April 28 reached a system-wide tentative agreement that would offer “a comprehensive suite of new benefits and workplace enhancements to improve quality of life for NS’s conductors.”
H.J. Res. 100, the House- and Senate-passed resolution that President Joe Biden signed into law on Dec. 2, 2022, imposed the Tentative Agreement resulting from President Emergency Board 250; it did not include paid sick leave.
While the House on Nov. 30, 2022, passed two resolutions (H.J. Res. 100 and H.Con. Res. 119) to impose on four holdout rail unions the Tentative Agreement accepted by eight others, and to amend that Tentative Agreement to include seven days of paid sick leave (that unions couldn’t gain in collective bargaining), the Senate on Dec. 1, 2022 agreed only to impose the Tentative Agreement.