PC recording time | BNSF provides answers to family members who picketed to promote awareness
GUERNSEY – Family members of BNSF employees took part in a nationwide picket line to publicize what they saw as unfair and unrespected policies by the BNSF Railroad.
In an article that the Platte County Record-Times and the Guernsey Gazette published last week, it was stated by Kevin Knutson, Local Chairman, SMART-TD LOCAL 465, “BNSF Railroad employees, members of the family, retirees and members of the public held an information picket across the country on May 10, 2022. In Gillette and Guernsey, Guernsey and Gillette employees participated with a total attendance of 100 people.
“The purpose of this information picket was to raise awareness of BNSF rail policies that not only degrade our workforce and hurt our families, but directly impact our communities and increase the cost of goods for all Americans,” Knutson said. “The information picket was also an effort to shine a light on how BNSF Railway is directly responsible for the regressive policies that are causing these difficulties.”
The protracted policies that started before the pandemic reduced the workforce. Now, a mandatory policy has reduced furloughs for existing employees, causing a fatigued workforce with limited family time and increasing public safety concerns. Here are some policies workers and families want the public to know about:
Withholding employee contracts from the last three years.
For the past three years, employees have worked without contracts due to the company’s reluctance to negotiate contracts in good faith.
Hi-Viz Attendance Policy
On February 1, 2022, the blatant presence policy known as “Hi-Viz” was made mandatory. The points-based system further reduced furloughs for an underfunded workforce and created a regressive work environment of desperation and unworthiness. The fear of losing points throughout the career created by this policy has led employees to work sick and tired to escape censorship and/or dismissal. This policy puts safety in the background and puts employees at risk.
Prior to the pandemic, BNSF Railway began to cut additional board workers who provide relief support to tired/ill/family leave workers and reduced the overall workforce. Instead of setting the standard for other Class 1 rail providers nationwide, they are paving the way for their workforce safety to deteriorate through practices and policies.
BNSF railroad reports unprecedented profits. At the same time, it’s lying to their customers, employees, and inflating costs that directly impact the American people and the customers we serve. Slower service and increased costs for customers in the supply chain add to inflation in the price of goods for the end consumer. This is corporate interference, not a ship stuck in a canal. BNSF Railway employees work tirelessly to compete with a company that cares more about profit than its customers or workforce.
“Once again the information picket has been organized by family members, employees and retirees who are exhausted from the constant abuse of BNSF Railway,” Knutson said. “Through their efforts, they hope to raise awareness and inspire policy change. We, as families, friends, employees and retirees, have never experienced such an adversarial approach to a workforce and its employees before. The extended policies have created a reduced workforce that began before the pandemic, and have now mandated a policy to reduce furloughs for existing employees. BNSF Railway employees are calling on their company and the nation’s railways to start SERVING customers instead of making excuses for policies and practices that highlight their corporate greed. While our families suffer, the impacts will extend beyond the immediate BNSF railroad. The public needs to know. »
In Guernsey, retired railway worker Randy Peterson and his wife Donna were part of a group picketing near the ‘Welcome to Guernsey’ sign at the east end of town overlooking the BNSF rail yard.
“I think this picket has a lot to do with availability policies,” he said. “They make these guys work all the time and they limit their free time. They limit sick days, vacation days, the number of people who can be away at a terminal at the same time, and it’s very difficult for people to be away. From what I understand, a lot of people quit.
Guernsey resident Lisa Schuldies who has children working for BNSF at Gillette and she mentioned she listened to her daughter’s concerns about high visibility policies.
“They can’t take time, it’s penalty points,” Schuldies said. “My daughter is a conductor and my son-in-law is also a conductor and they only get a certain number of points. Once their points are used up, they can lose their jobs. It is very likely that they will lose their jobs, which has led to a decrease in the workforce.
Schuldies said that due to the lack of workers and the disorganization of the schedule, her daughter, a mother of two, can be away from home for up to 36 hours.
“I understand the railways may not be a family business, I think we need to take a look at that,” Schuldies said. “I think they need to take better care of their employees than they have been.”
After the article went to print, the BNSF media team responded with the following:
“BNSF implemented a presence policy in February, known as HiViz, designed to improve the consistency of crews available for their shifts to run trains, which in turn improves consistency and reliability. service for our customers while improving predictability and transparency for our teams around the moment. they will go to work.
As with any change, it is important to monitor progress and adapt as needed. To that end, BNSF management made several changes just a month after the initial rollout and promised an additional review after 90 days.
This review is now complete, and while the program is working as intended, BNSF has been gathering feedback from employees, many of whom have shared thoughtful ideas and suggestions. Based on this feedback, BNSF made changes to the program on June 1 to provide more clarity and flexibility for employees.
It is important to note that there has been no change in the leave time granted to an employee. More than 50% of train crew employees work less than 40 hours per week on average. Typically, train crew employees have more than 3-4 weeks of paid vacation and more than 10 days of personal time off. The number of personal leave days has been increased by 25% this year, making it easier for employees to take time off.
In fact, since the launch of HiViz, we’ve seen more planned vacation days taken than before the change. Additionally, employees cannot work more than 6 consecutive days under federal law. The time off between each shift is on average around 24 hours and since the implementation of the attendance policy we have seen this increase.
We currently have more train crew employees today than a year ago, coupled with a strong hiring plan for 2022 that already has 300 new employees being trained.
The Class I freight railways are currently in the collective bargaining process and BNSF remains committed and eager to work toward a quick and fair resolution to the collective bargaining process. In anticipation of a deal, BNSF continues to set aside funds for wage increases. The sooner a deal is struck, the sooner our union-represented employees get pay raises and we can all focus on what we do best: operating one of the largest freight rail networks in the world.
BNSF team members are the source of our success and we couldn’t deliver the nation’s goods without them. We are committed to adapting together to meet today’s competitive freight environment.