In the News
U.S. Court Ruling Favours Private Interests
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway’s “Hi-Viz” Attendance Policy
“Hi-Viz” is a devious, so-called attendance policy which Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) claims is necessary to continue to be competitive with other railways and modes of freight transportation. They claim it is useful because it clarifies for workers when absenteeism can lead to disciplinary measures. The entire policy is based on disciplining and what BNSF refers to as providing incentives for workers to never miss work.
Railway workers are already on call 365 days a year, 7 days a week and 24 hours a day. The new policy introduces a point system. The employee’s attendance record starts with 30 points. Points are deducted for days a worker misses work. The highest point deductions are for situations such as “no shows” or “missed calls.” According to the workers, being sick or going to the doctor results in point deductions. The policy includes what is called High Impact Days, such as holidays and other events where attendance may be lower, where points deducted for missing work when called in are particularly high.
The policy also includes so-called good attendance credits. For example, a worker is awarded credits for a 14-day period they work without being unavailable. In terms of discipline, each time a worker runs out of points, they are subject to being disciplined, beginning with suspension and leading up to dismissal.
This is all being imposed on railway workers already spending long periods of time away from their families as a result of the anarchy in how the rail system operates. This is taking place at at time when the maintenance of aging lines is being slashed to the bone, with very few people on those crews, causing breakdowns while workers remain on call and away from their families. Workers report that many already go to work sick with COVID-19 symptoms to avoid being disciplined. They report that although trains are longer than they have ever been, up to 15,000 feet in many cases, they’re being operated by two-person crews, with a reduction to one-man crews the stated near-term goal of all the railroads. The introduction of such a policy, the preparation of which was kept secret from workers, poses a direct threat to their lives.
(Workers’ Forum, posted February 28, 2022)