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Two more railroad unions approve labor pact as possible strike still looms after midterms

Two more unions have ratified a national collective bargaining agreement with the nation’s railroads.

The SMART Railroad, Mechanical and Engineering Department and the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers voted in favor of the deal.

While the deal includes a wage increase, health care premium adjustments and work rule updates, some workers have raised concerns about their working conditions.

“It was up to our members to decide whether to accept this agreement, and the members have made the decision to ratify a contract with the highest wage increases we have ever seen in national freight rail bargaining,” Joseph Sellers Jr., the general president of SMART, said in a statement. “However, we hear the concerns of our members who may be disappointed in the outcome of this vote, and I promise that we will never stop fighting to ensure that they receive the wages, benefits, and working conditions that they deserve for keeping the American economy running.”

Six unions have ratified the deal with the latest signoffs, while one voted against it. According to the National Carriers’ Conference Committee, representing the nation’s railroads, five unions have not yet ratified the deal. Any work stoppage wouldn’t happen until after next month’s midterm election.

The Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, the next union expected to vote on the ratification of the contract, is slated to announce its decision by about Oct. 26.

“Quality of life issues after the COVID-19 crisis is extremely important, sick leave and time off to visit Medical Practitioners are more important today than it was 48 years ago,” NCFO President Dean Devita said in a statement, noting the deal includes the largest wage increase in 48 years. “Although the agreement is finalized, the NCFO will continue to work on this and many other issues.”

This week, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division, the country’s third-largest rail union, announced its members voted against ratification of the deal. About 56.1% voted against it, while about 43% voted in favor of the deal.

According to NCCC, following an unsuccessful vote, the two sides “have agreed to maintain the status quo for a period of time pending any further discussions and assessment of next steps. As such, a failed ratification does not present risk of an immediate service disruption.”

This article originally appeared on The Center Square.

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