Washington DC, Sep 15 (EFE).- The White House saidd Thursday that a “tentative” deal was reached to avoid a train strike in the United States that would have adversely affected the economy and caused further disruptions in the supply chain.
In a statement, President Joe Biden stressed that this preliminary agreement is not only important to the economy and the people, but also to the “tens of thousands of rail workers who worked tirelessly through the pandemic.”
“These rail workers will get better pay, improved working conditions, and peace of mind around their health care costs: all hard-earned,” said the president.
Biden said the pact is also “a victory for railway companies,” which can retain and recruit more workers for an industry that will continue to be part of “the backbone of the American economy for decades to come.”
The president also expressed gratitude to the unions and companies for negotiating in good faith in reaching this agreement, which will keep the “critical” railway system in operation and avoid a negative impact on the economy.
Biden himself has been mediating between companies and unions, and on Monday while in Boston he spoke over the phone with the two sides in a bid to avoid a strike.
At the heart of the dispute was the negotiation of a new contract, in which workers wanted to include clauses allowing them to go to the doctor or respond to family emergencies without being penalized, as under the current system, which does not cover any sick leaves, according to the unions.
This Friday the so-called “reflection period” laid down by federal law was ending, so that employees could strike or companies could decree a forced strike by closing their facilities and preventing workers from returning to their jobs.
Failure to reach an agreement would have led to a strike by railway workers that would have disrupted the country’s supply chain and caused a setback to the economy.
Several railway firms had already started curtailing their services in anticipation of a strike.
The White House had drawn up contingency plans to continue the rail transport of goods considered crucial for the US economy by air in cargo planes, by sea with ships, and by trucks on the country’s roads.
The country’s leading passenger rail operator Amtrak said Thursday it was working to restore services after it began canceling long distance trains the previous night for fear that a strike would leave travelers stranded before reaching at their destinations.
Although Amtrak and its employees have not been part of the labor dispute, their trains use tracks owned by companies directly involved in it. EFE