OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The union that represents railroad engineers finally secured its first deal for paid sick time with Norfolk Southern several months after other rail unions began reaching similar agreements with the major freight railroads.
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen announced the deal with the railroad Thursday. Roughly 3,300 engineers who operate trains for Norfolk Southern will soon get five days of paid sick leave along with the option to convert two personal leave days to sick time, for a total of seven days a year.
This deal follows the model established by the conductors union in its first sick-time deals with Norfolk Southern and CSX. Those train crew workers are getting better deals, with five days of sick time, than the other smaller rail unions that received four days of sick time. But train crews work much more unpredictable and demanding schedules than other rail workers.
More than one third of all rail workers have reached deals to gain sick time this year. The issue and other quality of life concerns nearly derailed the industry and led to an economically devastating strike last fall. Congress intervened and blocked a walkout, forcing rail workers to accept a deal that more than half of them rejected.
Previously, the BLET union expressed frustration about the pace of sick time negotiations and the demands railroads were making. It wasn’t immediately clear Thursday what, if anything, the engineers had to give up to secure the deal with Norfolk Southern.
“This is a big day for the BLET,” said Scott Bunten, one of the unions general chairmen who helped negotiate the deal. “Our members are the heart of the railroad, and this agreement is a major win in our tireless efforts to improve the quality of their experience on and off the job.”
Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw said the deal builds on the railroad’s “effort to enhance quality of life as we become the first railroad to reach an engineer sick leave deal.”