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Eyes Trained on Norfolk

Rail company agrees to scheduling changes, will provide financial support

On the heels of the widely publicized train derailment on one of its lines crossing through East Palestine, Ohio last month, Norfolk Southern has agreed to certain terms regarding its scheduling structure and financial support for nearby residents moving forward.

First, Norfolk CEO Alan Shaw told Congress Wednesday that his rail company would create a medical compensation fund and a property assurance program to help residents of East Palestine, Ohio, the site of last month’s accident.

A follow-up announcement about logistics and relating to safety came swiftly after this. According to a PRNewswire release from earlier today, Norfolk Southern Corporation and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers — Transportation Division (SMART-TD) announced that they are discontinuing formal negotiations regarding conductor redeployment to focus their efforts on implementing other immediate quality-of-life improvements for their employees.

"Over the next year, SMART-TD and Norfolk Southern have the opportunity to work together to implement important predictability improvements for our conductor workforce," said Jeremy Ferguson, president of SMART-TD. "These scheduling enhancements, which were part of last year's national agreements, have the potential to make an immediate positive impact for our conductors by giving them fixed days off and greater certainty about their weekly assignments. The willingness of NS to step back from plans to change to a ground-based conductor model is a welcome show of good faith in the negotiation process."

Under the terms of the national agreements, Norfolk Southern and SMART-TD have a mid-June deadline to negotiate the details of these scheduling enhancements. Given this limited window, Norfolk Southern has withdrawn its current Section 6 bargaining notice on conductor redeployment to fully focus on collaboratively implementing these enhancements and other quality-of-life priorities.

"Norfolk Southern is committed to working with labor partners, including SMART-TD, to identify and negotiate benefits that will have a meaningful impact on our employees' quality of life," said Wai Wong, vice president, Labor Relations at Norfolk Southern. "While redeployment of conductors to ground-based shift-work will provide more predictable jobs and minimize time away from home, there are a number of other priorities that our labor partners would like to address, and we are committed to working together to make immediate progress."

The withdrawal of the Section 6 notice on conductor redeployment removes the mandatory requirement for the parties to bargain over the issue, though voluntary discussions remain an option. SMART-TD and Norfolk Southern will continue listening to NS employees, relying on their input to guide the focus of their joint efforts and discussions going forward.

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