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As the clock winds down to a Friday deadline for a tentative labor agreement to be reached, U.S. Class Is are enacting contingency plans in preparation for a possible work stoppage.
"Although negotiations with the two holdout unions continue, we still do not have a commitment from them not to strike and must act accordingly," Norfolk Southern Railway officials said yesterday in a customer notice.
NS announced that it will operate unit trains of bulk commodities until Thursday, and will close gates to intermodal traffic later today. In addition, all automotive origin facilities will close to vehicle in-gates for rail movement later today. Until further notice, out-gates will remain open at all NS automotive facilities during normal business hours for car-haul carriers to pick up vehicles, they added.
Meanwhile, BNSF Railway Co. as of today will not allow temperature-controlled intermodal units (TCI) to in-gate at any of its intermodal facilities, the railroad announced in a customer notice. Non-running TCI units used for dry bulk shipments may still be in-gated, they said.
BNSF, NS and the other major freight railroads continue to meet with labor unions to seek agreements before a federally mandated "cooling-off" period expires at 12:01 a.m. Friday.
Although the railroads have reached tentative agreements with nine of the 12 unions involved in the negotiations, "every union has to be under an agreement to avoid a strike or other job action that will impact the movement" of freight, BNSF officials said.
Meanwhile, about 4,900 members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District 19 have voted to reject the tentative agreement with the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), union officials announced today.
The tentative agreement was rejected and the strike authorization vote approved by IAM District 19 members, union officials said in a prepared statement.
"Out of respect for other unions in the ratification process, an extension has been agreed to until Sept. 29, 2022, at 12 p.m. ET," the statement read. "This extension will allow us to continue to negotiate changes with the NCCC in the hopes of achieving an agreement our membership would ratify."
IAM District 19 represents locomotive machinists, track equipment mechanics and facility maintenance personnel at NCCC freight-rail carriers.