UPDATED: Sept. 15, 2022 at 11:45 a.m.
The railroad engineers and conductors strike, which threatened to shut down Metra commuter train lines operated by BNSF Railway and the Union Pacific Railroad has been averted after the labor unions and the major railroad companies agreed to a tentative deal.
The contract still needs to be approved by the union members, but even if they vote to reject the deal, Reuters reported that they wouldn’t be able to strike for a few more weeks.
The deal, which was reached on Sept. 15 at 4 a.m. includes 14.1-percent across-the-board wage increases, which would take effect immediately, double-digit pay increases for employees those salaries have been frozen and the ability to take time off to seek “certain types of medical care” without being penalized.
Scheduling and the ability to take time off have been the main points of contention between the unions and the railroads as the workforce shrank while demand increased during the pandemic.
A strike threatened by freight railroad engineers and conductors would halt Metra trains along the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad as soon as Sept. 15.
The BNSF Railroad allows Metra to operate commuter trains on their freight lines, and if engineers and conductors strike, that would halt service along the BNSF Line, which travels through Riverside and Brookfield.
According to a Sept. 14 Metra press release, if the work stoppage happens, the trains will stop running on the evening of Sept. 15. On the BNSF line, inbound trains would stop running after 8 p.m. and outbound trains would stop running after 9:30 p.m.
The Associated Press reports that there are 12 railroad employee unions currently seeking a contract. The railroads have reached tentative agreements with most of their unions based on the recommendations of a Presidential Emergency Board, which President Joe Biden appointed this summer.
The board recommended raises amounting to 24 percent and $5,000 in bonuses in a five-year deal that’s retroactive to 2020. The deal also includes one additional day of paid leave per year and higher health insurance costs.
But all 12 railroad unions must agree to prevent a strike. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Union, which represents the train engineers, and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers union, which represents the conductors, want the railroads to address some of their concerns about unpredictable work schedules and strict attendance rules in addition to agreeing to the recommended wage increases.
Riverside and North Riverside commuters looking for an alternative can connect to CTA commuter stations via Pace bus routes on Harlem Avenue and Cermak Road. Brookfield residents can also use Pace Route 302, which serves the LaGrange Road station in LaGrange and connects to the CTA Pink Line.
Pace spokesperson Maggie Daly Skogsbakken said that if the strike happens, the transit agency will accept all Metra monthly and daily passes starting Sept. 15 at 10 p.m.
“Pace will supplement service on the existing routes as much as it is able,” she said.