OMAHA, Neb. – The head of the country’s largest railway union says The report designed to help resolve stalled contract negotiations with freight railways does not do enough to address concerns over working conditions, even though it suggests increases of 24%.

The indicated railways earlier this week that they were ready to reach an agreement based on the recommendations of the Emergency Presidential Council which Joe Biden nominated last month. But early comments Thursday from union leaders suggest the 115,000 workers they represent may not be ready to sign.

Both parties have 30 days to negotiate a contract before federal law permits a strike or lockout. But if the two sides arrive in mid-September without an agreement, Congress is likely to step in and impose conditions to avert a strike.

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The advice’s recommendations were a “great improvement” over previous railway proposals, said Jeremy Ferguson, president of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division union which represents drivers. But, he added, “the recommendations do not go far enough to provide our members with the quality of life they have earned and that they and their families deserve.”

The other 11 unions involved in contract negotiations have yet to comment on details. Ferguson’s comments echo some of the concerns rail workers have posted online since the report was released on Tuesday.

Workers want the railways to ease some of their restrictions attendance policies they say keep them on call and make it hard to take days off. The unions also say that the always difficult railway work has become considerably more demanding in recent years after major freight railways cut almost a third of their jobs.

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The railways argue that they no longer need as many employees and locomotives as before, as they have overhauled their operations to run fewer longer trains.

Ferguson said the panel’s recommendations do little to resolve the rift between investors and railroad executives who have benefited from recent record profits, and the workers who keep trains running 24 hours a day. 24/7 and struggled throughout the pandemic.

Arbitrators said most union concerns about working conditions should be resolved through arbitration, which can last for years, rather than contract negotiations. The contract negotiations themselves have been going on for more than two years already.

The group that negotiates on behalf of major railroads, the National Carriers Conference Committee, said the recommended deal would deliver the biggest increases in decades and push average railroad wages to $110,000 a year. by the end of the five-year agreement.

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In addition to the raises, which are bigger than the 17% offered by the railroads but not as generous as the 31% raises demanded by the unions, the recommended deal would include five $1,000 bonuses and a day off. additional paid leave per year.

Another key sticking point in the negotiations was the railroads’ proposal to reduce train crews from two to one. Unions strongly oppose the move, not only to protect jobs, but also because they say they are concerned about safety.

Federal regulators proposed a rule last month it will require two-person crews in most cases, but the railways have continued to push for change as they say a new automatic braking system that can stop trains in certain circumstances makes unnecessary the presence of a second person in the cabin.

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