Reported by Marco Raimondi for Railfreight.Com.
The last few weeks in the United States have been quite chaotic when it comes to the future of rail workers. Since institutions have not seemed to find effective solutions for a collective agreement, rail freight companies in the country are taking it upon themselves to try and help their employees. Rail operator CSX Corp is changing its attendance policy to accommodate railway workers, who were recently denied paid sick leave by the government.
The old policy entails a points-based attendance system. In other words, workers are penalized with points for unscheduled absences, and risk being suspended or fired. The new system will not assess points when a worker calls in sick on short notice. However, this will only be valid when sick employees saw a doctor. The new system will be effective from 1 January 2023.
According to Reuters, under the new CSX policy, points will expire on a 12-month cycle instead of keeping accumulating. Moreover, employees working without absences will be rewarded with credit with which they can reduce their points. The old system was highly challenged during the pandemic when a significant number of employees was let go and only a reduced portion of them was kept to handle the chaotic situation. CSX claimed that it does not add points when workers miss work due to hospitalization or emergency treatment.
Rail workers decided to rally
At the beginning of December, US lawmakers denied rail workers their right to strike after negotiations for a new collective agreement did not leave some trade unions satisfied. The Transportation Trades Department, a coalition of US unions, announced rallies all over the United States, including in front of the Capitol in Washington DC for Tuesday 13 December.
Other than blocking the strike, US institutions rejected senator Sanders’ proposal to include seven days of paid sick leave in the new agreement. At the beginning of the week, members of the House of Representatives and the Senate came together in asking President Biden to implement paid sick leave for rail workers. The request was made in the form of a letter signed by 73 lawmakers: 72 democrats plus independent senator Bernie Sanders. The White House has not responded to the proposal as of yet.
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