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BNSF Railway employees could strike over new attendance policy

The workers are angry over a new policy that would make it tougher to take days off without being punished.

TEMPLE, Texas — Employees of BNSF Railways (Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation) are considering a strike after the company announced a new attendance policy, which will take place on Feb. 1. 

Gordon Darting has been an engineer and conductor for BNSF for nearly 20 years and serves as an engineer local chairman for the Temple Local 331 Smart-TD Union. He says that the policy, called Hi-Viz, creates a point system for days taken off. Each employee would be given 30 points for the rest of their career but would be docked points for taking off weekdays (2 points), weekends (4 points), and holidays (10 points). If your number drops below zero, an offense is triggered which can result in a suspension or termination. 

“People are not going to want to come to work, in an environment that's so hostile towards you that doesn’t allow you to take time with your family, and watch your children grow or spend time with your wife or vacation and stuff or even enjoy the vacation time they even give you," he said. 

6 News reached out to BNSF and received this response: 

"BNSF has not changed its attendance guidelines in more than 20 years. Last week, BNSF announced a new system that is designed to provide employees with real-time information and greater flexibility, so they can make informed decisions about their work schedules. This policy update is consistent with practices across the transportation industry, while helping us safely and efficiently serve our customers and the communities that count on us. We understand that change can be an adjustment, but working together with our employees, we believe we can adapt to meet today’s competitive freight environment." 

Darting says that this change will deter new employees from working on the railroad and will cause employees at each level to potentially quit. 

“The union is polling its members to strike, if President [Jeremy] Ferguson allows us to.”

He says this is the company's way of doing more with less, as each employee is given more than $40,000 in benefit packages. 

"We’re using crews for multiple different things that are against our agreements, I mean its pretty horrific what they’re doing to us out here," he said.

Right now, employees agree to be available 24/7 for 75 percent of their time. Darting says this move will make that closer to 90 or 95 percent of the time. The breakdown would be closer to two to three days off a month, according to him. 

His hope is to avoid a strike and that BNSF will listen to their employees. He claims there were not any negotiations or notice that this attendance policy would be enacted before it was announced. 

    

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