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Rail News: BNSF Railway

BNSF attendance policy tweaks are not enough, rail union leader says


BNSF Railway Co. last week announced changes to its controversial "HiViz" attendance policy, but a rail labor leader says the changes amount to "little more than fluff."

The policy was designed to ensure rail crews are available for their shifts to run trains to improve service reliability. But rail labor leaders have balked at the policy, claiming that it has caused locomotive engineers and other railroaders to stay on call around the clock, prompting hundreds to quit their jobs.

BNSF leadership adjusted the policy a month after it was rolled out and promised an additional review after 90 days, said BNSF spokesman Benjamin Wilemon in an email.

"That review has now been completed and while the program is working as intended, BNSF has gathered feedback from employees, many of whom shared thoughtful ideas and suggestions," Wilemon said. "Considering that input, BNSF will make additional modifications to the program effective June 1 to provide additional clarity and flexibility to employees."

The policy did not change how much time off an employee receives, Wilemon noted.

"In fact, since starting HiViz, we have seen more planned vacation days taken than before the change," he said. "In addition, employees can’t work more than six days in a row under federal law. Time off between each shift averages around 24 hours and since the attendance policy was implemented, we have seen that increase."

Moreover, BNSF has more train crew employees than it did a year ago. The railroad's "robust" hiring plan for 2022 has 300 new employees currently being trained, he said.

Still, the policy changes are not enough, according to Dennis Pierce, national president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. The railroad "unilaterally implemented these minor changes" last week without input from rail unions, Pierce said in a press release.

"These modifications do little to meet our members' or their families' needs,” he said.

The attendance policy is exacerbating supply-chain problems and is prompting railroaders to quit their jobs.

"Not only is the supply chain failing, but this abusive and punitive attendance policy is breaking apart families and causing locomotive engineers and other railroaders to come to work dangerously fatigued," said Pierce.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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