Overworked railroad employees plus a new draconian attendance policy equals a disaster.
“American railroad workers are criticizing a new restrictive attendance policy at one of the largest railroad freight networks in the US, as they experience grueling schedules and labor cuts in the midst of new union contract negotiations, which have hit an impasse, prompting federal mediation.
The Guardian spoke with several railroad trainmen and engineers who requested to remain anonymous as they are prohibited by their employer from speaking to the media.
On 1 February, BNSF Railway, one of the largest railroad freight networks in North America implemented a new point system attendance policy, criticized by workers and unions representing about 17,000 workers, for being more restrictive, incentivizing going to work fatigued or ill, and increasing threats of discipline.
One train engineer in the network’s Great Plains Region claimed they had to push back a medical procedure for a chronic illness to the summer, when they have vacation time off scheduled, as they would have used nearly all of their attendance points required for the time off needed for the procedure.
‘We feel stabbed in the back, completely demoralized with the work we did through the pandemic, understanding the situation, going the extra mile, and doing what we’re asked to do, and then some without complaint,’ said the worker.
The new attendance system appears arcane. Workers are allotted 30 career attendance points and docked several points for taking any days off, with points varying on the time of the week and days designated as high-impact days. Workers can get four points back after working uninterrupted for 14 days. Previously, workers were allotted five weekdays off a month and two weekend days off. Workers are continuously on call and have just over an hour to report to work when they are called in.
‘Fatigue is a chronic issue with almost everyone I know and work with. We manage it so it doesn’t get too severe,’ they added. “We’ve been struggling through the pandemic with fatigue, exhaustion, and we have no chance to even catch our breath.
‘Despite the grueling work schedules, workers explained there is no room for error in the work they do given the important safety components of their job, such as transporting hazardous chemicals.”
For the rest of the story, visit the Guardian here.