Burlington Northern Rail Hit With Suit Over Union Contract (1)

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By Jacquie Lee

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway changed workers’ contracts without bargaining, the Teamsters’ rail division alleges in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Colorado.

BNSF is consolidating its freight service between various cities in Colorado, Wyoming, and Texas, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen says the railroad has consolidated the workers’ contracts as a result.

The BNSF Railway is the second largest freight railroad network in North America, behind Union Pacific Railroad. It operates in 28 states, has 41,000 employees, and is one of the largest railroad employers in the country, according to a company fact sheet.

The new contract provisions lowered wages and 401(k) employer matches for some workers and changed work schedules and job assignment procedures, according to the lawsuit. The union says those unreviewed changes violate the Railway Labor Act, and it is suing to restore workers’ old contracts and working conditions.

The company says it is allowed to “reconfigure operations as long as it provides it proper notice of the proposed operational changes,” which the company says it provided. “BNSF is confident that it will prevail in Denver federal district court,” a company representative told Bloomberg Law.

The union also alleges that BNSF railroad managers aren’t giving workers the proper time to conduct test runs on tracks with which they are unfamiliar, which presents a major safety hazard. Railroads have been under increased scrutiny lately for safety issues, which makes test runs especially important, the union says.

The company didn’t comment on the union’s allegations regarding safety test runs.

The union didn’t reply to requests for comment March 21.

The case is BLET General Comm. of Adjustment v. BNSF Ry. Co., D. Colo., No. 1:18-cv-00643, filed 03/19/18.

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