NS: Paid Sick Leave for BMWED, NCFO (UPDATED)

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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Norfolk Southern (NS) was the third Class I to offer paid sick leave to craft railroaders. On Feb. 22, it reported reaching an agreement with the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division-International Brotherhood of Teamsters (BMWED), and on Feb. 24, it added the National Conference of Firemen and Oilers (NCFO).

In a precedent-setting move for the railroad industry, CSX on Feb. 7 reached agreements with the BMWED and Brotherhood of Railway Carmen (BRC) for paid sick leave; on Feb. 10, it added the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and NCFO; and on Feb. 14, added the IAM Roadway Mechanics division and BRC Carmen for Fruit Growers Express Company division. The eight remaining unions, it is believed, will eventually accept the agreement.

UP on Feb. 20 followed suit, announcing it had reached an agreement with NCFO and BRC.

NS is now providing a new sick leave benefit to approximately 3,000 of its Engineering craft railroaders who are BMWED members (download agreement below); and to approximately 200 of its Mechanical railroaders who are NCFO members. They will have the ability to take up to seven paid sick days per year.

NS said it “is engaging with all its unions to further enhance quality of life and work predictability for its craft employees,” and “remains in active discussions with its other union partners to gather input on the issues that are most important to their members.” In the coming months, NS added, it “looks forward to making further progress with its labor leaders to negotiate and implement priorities that will have the greatest positive impact for its dedicated railroaders who keep the U.S. economy moving.”

“Norfolk Southern’s success is built upon the incredible work our craft railroaders perform every day, and we are committed to improving their quality of life in partnership with our union leaders,” NS President and CEO Alan Shaw said.

American Rail System Federation General Chairman Jonathon Long, who represents BMWED members working at NS, said, “This paid sick leave agreement will help NS’s maintenance-of-way employees and their families in times of illness. The agreement is a step in the right direction for necessary changes at NS to improve the employer-employee relationship.”

NCFO President Dean Devita stated: “NS Assistant Vice President of Labor Relations Christopher Decker bargained in good faith with the NCFO, and we appreciate their professionalism and courage during the negotiations.”

The Surface Transportation Board on Feb. 22—before NS announced its agreement with BMWED—praised the CSX and UP labor agreements, saying “[t]hese types of collaborative efforts to tackle ‘quality of life’ issues should result in the further strengthening of our national rail network by promoting both retention of existing workers and providing incentives for potential new hires. Rail labor is the backbone of our national rail network, and it is therefore imperative that the rail labor force be strong, vibrant, and healthy.”


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.

BNSF on Feb. 23 became the fourth Class I to offer paid sick leave.

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