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Fri Jan 6, 2017, 08:13 AM

As railroad business declines, talks with unions for Nebraska workers screech to a halt

By Russell Hubbard

Union labor-contract negotiations for one of Nebraska’s key industries — freight railroads — have stalled after almost two years of fruitless bargaining.

Unions representing 145,000 rail workers nationally and about 10,000 in Nebraska began negotiating in early 2015 with the seven Class I freight railroads — which include major Nebraska employers Union Pacific and BNSF Railway — to replace a contract that expired that year.

Now, lack of progress on pay and health care benefits has sent the negotiations into federal mediation. That is the process by which an impartial third party attempts to bring the sides together as mandated by the Railway Labor Act; the rail employees are continuing to work under the terms of the expired contract until a new agreement is reached.

Little is known about the negotiations, with each side releasing occasional communiques on the status. Attempts to contact national rail union leaders likely to be involved with the talks were unsuccessful. Inquiries with Omaha-based Union Pacific and Berkshire Hathaway-owned BNSF were referred to the coordinated negotiating body, called the National Railway Labor Conference.

FULL story: http://www.omaha.com/money/as-railroad-business-declines-talks-with-unions-for-nebraska-workers/article_5adff120-c80d-53eb-92e2-3c817f73ff88.html

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