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BLET and Norfolk Southern reach first deal on engineer paid sick leave

INDEPENDENCE, OH, and ATLANTA (May 18, 2023) — The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE:NSC) announced Thursday that they have reached an agreement to provide up to seven paid sick days per year to BLET members. The agreement will provide Norfolk Southern engineers with five new days of paid sick leave per year while also offering them the flexibility to use up to two additional days of existing paid time off as sick leave.

The new agreement will provide new paid sick leave benefits to over 3,300 NS engineers, representing almost 25% of the NS craft workforce. With this agreement, almost all Norfolk Southern craft employees — approximately 98% — have entered into paid sick leave deals.

“We are proud to be the first to have reached a paid sick leave agreement for our dedicated BLET membership,” said Dewayne Dehart, BLET general chairman (NS-Northern Lines GCA). “This trailblazing new deal ensures that engineers finally have access to the time they need and deserve to manage their personal wellbeing.”

“Our agreement with Norfolk Southern recognizes the critical contributions our members make to keep the railroad and the American economy running,” added Jerry Sturdivant, BLET general chairman (NS-Southern Lines GCA). “Our members are the hardest-working folks on the railroad, and we thank NS for their collaboration to get this deal done for them.”

“This is a big day for the BLET,” said Scott Bunten, BLET general chairman (NS-Eastern Lines GCA). “Our members are the heart of the railroad, and this agreement is a major win in our tireless efforts to improve the quality of their experience on and off the job.”

“I deeply appreciate the contributions of our Norfolk Southern engineers and the longstanding partnership we’ve had with the BLET,” said Alan H. Shaw, president and CEO of Norfolk Southern. “This agreement builds on that relationship and continues our industry-leading effort to enhance quality of life as we become the first railroad to reach an engineer sick leave deal.”

“This agreement is yet another important milestone in our ongoing efforts to enhance quality of life for our craft employees,” said Wai Wong, vice president, Labor Relations at Norfolk Southern. “I want to thank our BLET general chairmen for their partnership as we worked to negotiate this important benefit for their members.”

The paid sick leave agreement is accompanied by a second quality-of-life agreement that needs to be ratified under BLET’s bylaws. This second agreement offers additional preservation of earnings unique to Norfolk Southern engineers when they use paid sick leave, as well as greater protection for vacation time, further enhancing the paid sick leave deal. As such, the paid sick leave agreement will be effective upon ratification of the second agreement.

“I want to thank General Chairmen Dehart, Sturdivant, and Bunten, along with National Vice President Rick Gibbons, for their efforts in securing this historic agreement,” said BLET National President Eddie Hall. “The BLET is currently working to secure similar sick leave agreements with the other Class I railroads, and I hope this settlement will help bring those negotiations to a positive conclusion.”