Union Pacific (UP) on March 25 reported reaching a tentative crew-consist agreement with General 953, part of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division (SMART-TD), in which two-person crews would be maintained.
According to UP, the proposed agreement “makes no changes to the current conductor position staffing each train as part of a two-person crew, provides long-term job protection to current employees, and gives the railroad greater flexibility to deploy brake or switch persons to work either in or outside the yard.”
The General Committee of Adjustment 953 of the SMART-TD is described as a “broad-based, transportation labor union representing active and retired railroad workers in a 10-state area on the Union Pacific, Kyle, Nebraska Central, Wichita Terminal, and Portland Terminal railroads.” The committee comprises 74 local chairmen representing railroad conductors, brakemen, switchmen, ground service personnel, locomotive engineers, hostlers and workers in associated crafts.
UP said that the proposed agreement, if ratified, would close its current Section 6 Notice to redeploy conductors on this committee.
According to an Associated Press report earlier this year, UP had considered a pilot project in Nebraska “to test out how quickly a conductor based in a truck could respond to train problems and compare that to how fast the conductor aboard the train could address them.” SMART-TD “refused to agree to the plan because it believes train conductors play a crucial safety role,” reported the media outlet, which noted that “UP executives told the Federal Railroad Administration that their plan would have helped them determine how feasible it would be to reduce train crews down to just an engineer and might give the agency valuable information to consider as it weighs whether to issue a rule requiring two-person crews.”
“We are pleased that Union Pacific is focusing on quality of life for our conductor workforce,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said March 25. “Along with the scheduling enhancements, which were part of last year’s national agreements, we have an opportunity to positively impact our conductors by giving them fixed days off and greater certainty about their weekly assignments.”
“This agreement with SMART-TD reflects Union Pacific’s commitment to enhance the quality of life for our employees through predictable, scheduled shift work while giving us greater scheduling flexibility that will also improve customer service,” UP Executive Vice President-Sustainability and Strategy and Chief Human Resource Officer Beth Whited said March 25. “We are working to finalize the contract details as quickly as possible.”
On March 23, Norfolk Southern and SMART-TD reported discontinuing formal negotiations regarding a conductor-redeployment proposal and focusing their efforts on implementing other “immediate quality-of-life improvements” for employees.