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On Saturday, November 5, 2011, President Obama released the recommendations of the Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) he created last month to investigate and make recommendations for resolving the contract dispute between the major freight railroads and their labor organizations.
The PEB recommendations are applicable to all rail labor organizations except the United Transportation Union. UTU previously reached and ratified a national agreement in September 2011.
The release of the recommendations started the final 30-day cooling off period during which the parties will negotiate. While the PEB’s recommendations are not binding, final settlements typically track the recommendations, unless the parties mutually agree to changes.
The carriers, though disappointed in some aspects of the PEB recommendations, are willing to settle by accepting the recommendations.
The principal recommendations contained in the PEB’s decision are as follows:
The PEB further recommends that all other union proposals be withdrawn or referred to consensual bargaining. Failure to reach agreement in bargaining would not preclude a national settlement, nor would it authorize a work stoppage.
The PEB used the UTU national agreement as the reference point for its recommendations. While the UTU agreement included wage increases totaling 17% over six years of the agreement, it also provided three additional compensation items:
The PEB recommendations took into account the value of the additional compensation items in the UTU agreement that are not strictly applicable to other employee groups and recommended:
Steve Crable, CSX’s VP-labor relations, offers the following comparison of the PEB recommendations against the UTU agreement:
Negotiations begin this week
The National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC) is scheduled to meet with the various labor organizations during the weeks of November 7 and November 14 to negotiate a settlement based on the PEB recommendations or a mutually acceptable alternative.
“We are hopeful that a relatively prompt agreement may be possible,” Crable says.