US freight railroads say council’s wage recommendations will guide labor contract deal

LOS ANGELES, Aug 17 (Reuters) – The committee representing U.S. freight railroads in negotiations with their unions said on Wednesday that President Joe Biden’s emergency board settlement recommendations represented “the most significant wage increases important for decades”, but that they are ready to reach agreements based on the results.

The National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC), which represents railroads including Union Pacific, BNSF and Berkshire Hathaway-owned CSX, has been in contract talks with unions representing 115,000 workers for more than two years. Biden’s Emergency Presidential Board (PEB) released its findings to interested parties on Tuesday.

“The railways are ready to meet with railway unions and reach agreements based on the PEB report without delay,” the NCCC said.

Although the board’s recommended wage terms greatly exceed those offered by carriers in this round, the NCCC said “it is in the interest of all stakeholders – including customers, employees and the public – that the railways and railway trade union organizations address this issue, challenge and prevent service disruptions.”

The NCCC said the council’s recommendation would increase wages by 24% over the five-year period from 2020 to 2024, with a 14.1% wage increase taking effect immediately.

The recommendations also include five annual lump sum payments of $1,000, adjustments to health care premiums and limited changes to work rules. A portion of the wage increases and lump sum payments would be retroactive, translating to more than $11,000 on average in immediate payments to employees.

If implemented, the average salary of railroad workers would reach about $110,000 a year by the end of the agreement. Factoring in health care, retirement and other benefits, total employee compensation would average over $150,000 per year.

Shares of Union Pacific and CSX were both down 1.2% on Wednesday morning. (Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles editing by Matthew Lewis)

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