17,000 union employees for BNSF prepare to strike
BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - A new work policy at BNSF Railway that starts Feb. 1 has prompted more than 17,000 employees to decide to go on strike over what they call “the worst attendance policy ever.”
The SMART Transportation Union released the following statement: “This unprecedented BNSF policy repudiates direct and clear contract language and, in application, will attempt to force our members to report for duty without regard for their medical condition as we struggle to come out of a pandemic,” the presidents said. “It also stands to take away any ability by our members to avoid working fatigued when they are routinely called without warning due to the complete lack of reliable train lineups, thus creating the potential for an even more unsafe railroad operation. So-called ‘forced overtime’ in an industry where safety is so critical not only repudiates our agreements, it stands to enact irreparable harm on hundreds of full-time employees whose non-workplace obligations prevent them from being at work every day of their life.”
BNSF’s new Hi-Viz policy is a points-based system which penalizes employees — who in many cases have no assigned days off — any time they take time off work for practically any reason. In a FAQ that BNSF sent out to its employees, the carrier claimed that they “must improve crew availability to remain competitive in the industry” and that their revised Hi-Viz program helps with this issue “by incentivizing consistent and reliable attendance.” BNSF goes on to claim that a reduction in absenteeism will improve predictability of work assignments. However, the affected employees and their unions have made clear that they view BNSF’s approach to this issue as a juxtaposition. That is: if the carrier instead focused its efforts on predictable scheduling of assignments and competent management of its furloughed employees, there would be no need to impose such draconian attendance policies.”
BNSF railway released a statement to Your News Leader.
“BNSF team members drive the railroad’s success and we couldn’t deliver the nation’s goods without our employees. BNSF has not changed its attendance guidelines in more than 20 years. This week, BNSF announced a new system that is designed to provide employees with real-time information and greater flexibility, so they can make informed decisions about their work schedules. This policy update is consistent with practices across the transportation industry, while helping us safely and efficiently serve our customers and the communities that count on us. We understand that change can be an adjustment, but working together with our employees, we believe we can adapt to meet today’s competitive freight environment.”
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