US Freight Railroads Reach Tentative Deals With Three Unions

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After years of unsuccessful labour negotiations, a number of major US freight railways have made tentative deals with unions that represent more than 15,000 workers. This prevents a general strike.

The agreements with three of the 12 rail unions came after a White House-appointed mediation panel made recommendations, including pay raises and expanded health care, a few weeks ago.

According to a statement released on Monday by the National Carriers' Conference Committee, railroads like BNSF Railway Co. and Union Pacific Corp. said the terms meet the board's recommendations, including a 24% salary rise through 2024 with a 14.1% raise taking effect immediately.

Years of difficult discussions between railroads and employees started in January 2020, not long after the labour contract's terms were frozen at 2019 levels.

The Biden administration established a presidential emergency board in July to prevent 115,000 train workers throughout the US from going on strike after the National Mediation Board was unable to reach an agreement earlier this summer.

The carriers' conference committee, which speaks for the freight railways, said in a statement, "We look forward to further conversations with the unions that have not yet struck provisional agreements."

The offer is not binding on either party and has a mid-September deadline for acceptance or rejection from the nine remaining unions and major carriers.

At the end of a second 30-day period, the workers will be allowed to strike if the plan is rejected. However, Congress has the power to step in by enacting legislation that would compel the parties to continue negotiations or even force an agreement.

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