SMART-TD Agrees to ‘Advance Payments’ From CSX

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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CSX on April 19 reached what it’s calling a “tentative agreement” with the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, Transportation Division (SMART-TD) to provide SMART-TD Trainmen and Yardmasters with “monthly advance payments on future wage adjustments anticipated in settlement of the 2020 round of national bargaining between rail labor and the Class I railroads.” CSX also said it “notified its other labor organization representatives that it intends to reach agreements to provide identical payments to all unionized employees.”

The tentative agreement with SMART-TD provides that the monthly payments of up to $600 would be made from May 2022 through the end of the year, “or until a negotiated wage settlement is reached, whichever is earlier,” CSX noted. “The advance payments would be deducted from any retroactive or future pay increases that may be agreed upon at national bargaining.”

The 2020 round of bargaining began in November 2019, and the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC)* and rail labor coalitions are currently in mediation before the National Mediation Board (NMB). “It is unclear how long it may take for negotiations to conclude,” CSX said. “CSX has advised its labor unions and seeks their agreement to implement these advances, as required under the Railway Labor Act.”

“While CSX is in national handling for wages, benefits and work rules with the non-operating unions (10 of the 12 unions negotiating with the NCCC), CSX has not been participating in national handling on wages and work rules with BLET and Smart-TD—but it is a national handling with those two unions for benefits, as the healthcare plan is industry-wide,” explains Railway Age Capitol Hill Contributing Editor Frank N. Wilner, a former union official and author of a book on the Railway Labor Act. “Thus, CSX’s advance payments do not mean a tentative contract agreement has been reached with BLET and Smart-TD. It only means that CSX has a tentative agreement to provide an advance in anticipation of such an agreement, and will deduct the advance from whatever agreement is finally reached. With regard to CSX wanting to reach a similar interim agreement with the other 10 unions, with which it is in NCCC guided national handling, that will have to be done within the context of NCCC negotiations.”

(On April 11, the NMB refused a request from the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Mechanical Division (SMART-MD) and Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division/IBT (BMWED) to be relieved from mediation with the NCCC).

“Our union employees have waited nearly two years for a pay raise and are now dealing with the challenge of high inflation,” said CSX President and CEO James M. Foote. “This tentative agreement with SMART-TD is good for our employees, and we are committed to working with all of our labor unions to get this done for all union employees, who should not be left behind for months and months as we await the complex issues in national bargaining to be settled.”

“We know that collective bargaining in the rail industry tends to take years,” added CSX Executive Vice President Operations Jamie Boychuk. “We also know that our union-represented operations employees are suffering from the broader economic challenges. These are unprecedented times, and our operations employees have delivered for our customers, communities and the nation through the pandemic, on-going supply chain disruptions, and higher housing, food and fuel prices. It’s time we recognize their efforts and the difficult circumstances they and their families are facing by providing some relief through these fair and rightly earned wage adjustments.”

*The National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), organized within the National Railway Labor Conference (NRLC), consists of NRLC Chairman, who is also the NCCC Chairman, and senior labor relations executives of five U.S. Class I railroads (BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific), as well as the senior labor relations leader of the U.S. railroads owned directly or indirectly by CN.

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