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3/18/2002



Rail News: BNSF Railway

BNSF, UTU agree on alternative worker-safety rules


Burlington Northern Santa Fe and United Transportation Union recently reached an agreement on new safety rules and policies aimed at preventing workplace injuries through alternative means to punitive discipline, according to a March 18 UTU-prepared statement.
Workplace coaching, counseling and retraining would replace an existing discipline process for non-repetitive and non-serious rules violations. The agreement would enable local union-management safety committees — including union members chosen by UTU locals — to monitor work practices and correct safety hazards more promptly compared with current reporting, cataloguing and investigating processes.
"This agreement challenges and changes traditional employee/management relationships by substituting training and counseling for punitive discipline in most cases of rules violations," said UTU International President Byron Boyd Jr., who last year began negotiations with the railroad following a safety summit with BNSF President and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Rose.
Per the agreement, BNSF's UTU-represented employees are eligible for alternative handling if they accept responsibility for a violation and report a personal injury on time. Excluded from the new procedures are drug and alcohol policy violations; gross negligence defined by federal regulations as willful violations; rules violations resulting in "very serious" personal injury or property damage exceeding $250,000; dishonesty; physical altercations; serious equal-employment opportunity violations; and job abandonment. Multiple offenders also would lose eligibility.
Alternative handling would include a written worker-education plan tailored to an employee's work environment. BNSF would permit the employee to receive full compensation during training and counseling periods.
UTU general committees and state legislative directors plan to choose a full-time safety coordinator for each BNSF operating division. Safety coordinators can't testify or provide evidence in any formal accident investigation.
"The customary roles of a manager and employee in the railroad industry were defined more than a century ago, and remain basically adversarial in nature and required modification," said UTU Vice President Rick Marceau. "We have agreed to recognize first that safety, productivity and quality of life on the job are inexorably intertwined, and that staffing, training, work/rest scheduling, attendance requirements, rules and operating practices all have a bearing on safety in general, and human-factor failures specifically."


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