I’m sure your all aware of the rioting and looting in our city tonight. The Mayor has issued a Curfew and declared a state of emergency. The national guard has been called out and will be out in force tonight.
I’ve received multiple calls as how we should proceed If called to work. The curfew specifically states your exempt if traveling to or from work. Just be careful and be safe.
“Although FRA believes that many safety precautions included in [the unions’] petitions could constitute best practices that should be applied in the railroad industry, FRA does not believe that an emergency order is justified,” FRA Administrator Ronald Batory wrote, according to a BLET press release.
The BLET and SMART-TD unions petitioned the FRA to issue an emergency order specific to employee protections after the agency announced it would temporarily waive certain railroad regulatory safety requirements during the pandemic.
Union officials say the FRA has “yet to mandate safety protocols to protect the health of railroad workers during the national COVID-19 outbreak,” according to the press release.
We have another positive employee @ Gemco yard. The employee (the brakeman on the el 04 was informed of his positive test last night at 1830 (I believe he tested positive on 03/31). He then called his crew to inform them. Nothing from the company. Multiple engineers and trainmen @ Gemco are now in HP status.
If you have any symptoms please stay home and call the Nurse. I would like you to voice your displeasure with how the company is handling this via the safety hotline. They are more worried about paying you than they are keeping you from being exposed.
We have been informed that a clerk (a driver that shuttles crews) has tested positive for COVID-19. I believe his last day working was Thursday March 26th. if you were shuttled by the clerk last week please call the OHN . If you believe you were exposed please contact me
All Class 1 railroads have petitioned the FRA for relief amid the COVID-19 Pandemic. The FRA has issued a 60 day emergency waiver.
Federal Railroad Administrator Ron Batory.
In response to a Petition from the Association of American Railroads (AAR), American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) and American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued a 60-day emergency waiver for certain requirements of FRA’s rail safety regulations, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The petitioners, on behalf of their member railroads, requested relief from certain requirements of 49 CFR Parts 213, 214, 217, 218, 219, 220, 228, 229, 232, 234, 236, 239, 240, and 242.
The Petitioners—represented by AAR Senior Vice President Safety and Operations Michael J. Rush, ASLRRA Senior Vice President Safety & Regulatory Policy Jo Strang, and APTA Senior Director Engineering & Commuter Rail Operations Narayana Sundaram—requested relief on March 21, approximately one week after FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory’s activation of ERD (Emergency Relief Docket) No. FRA-2020-0002: “Activation of the ERD enables FRA to utilize its emergency waiver procedures found at 49 CFR § 211.45,” FRA said “Under that section, once the Administrator activates the ERD, FRA may grant a petition for waiver without prior notice and comment if the Administrator determines it is in the public interest, the waiver is not inconsistent with railroad safety, and the waiver is necessary to address an actual or impending emergency situation or event.”
The Petitioners “represent the vast majority of railroads operating in the United States,” FRA noted, adding “If any party desires a public hearing on their Petition, that party must notify FRA by the end of the day on March 28, 2020.”
“FRA explained that the relief granted is generally conditioned on the existence of workforce shortages and other constraints as a direct result of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, preventing individual railroads from timely completing all federally mandated railroad safety tests and inspections, or other requirements,” Strang noted to Railway Age. “However, relief is granted from certain regulations (§ 217.9 and the other related operational testing requirements §§ 228.5 and 228.203(a)(1)(ii), and Parts 240 and 242 (not including §§ 240.231 and 242.301)) regardless of the availability of an adequate workforce, because such relief supports the CDC’s recommendations for social distancing and limiting the touching of common surfaces. The remaining sections of the waiver may be used if the railroad can document a direct workforce shortage or constraint arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“ASLRRA members desiring to operate under the terms of the waiver must document the basis on which they concluded that availing themselves of the relief was necessary and must report required information weekly to ASLRRA to provide to FRA,” Strang noted. “ASLRRA is in the process of developing a procedure for members to provide this information. Further, some aspects of the waiver require specific recordkeeping, reporting and plan development to FRA staff directors, as explained in detail in FRA’s response. ASLRRA recommends that railroads take a conservative approach when utilizing the regulatory relief.”
AAR and APTA member railroads that fall under FRA jurisdiction are subject to the same conditions.
In their communication to FRA, the Petitioners asserted that their member railroads “expect their staffing levels to be significantly reduced as fewer railroad employees and contractors will be available to perform necessary duties due to illness and the need to quarantine,” FRA said in the waiver letter. “[They asserted] that a reduction in employee availability due to the COVID-19 pandemic will affect railroads’ ability to keep freight trains carrying critical goods and materials necessary for the country’s welfare operating during this emergency, and that compliance with all Federal railroad safety regulations, with the expected workforce shortage, would significantly hinder railroads’ ability to operate. Additionally, Petitioners [noted] that limited resources or directives imposed on a geographic location by other government agencies could lead to operational limitations that could result in undue delay to the transportation of critical commodities. As such, Petitioners [requested] relief from certain FRA safety requirements in the event the COVID-19 pandemic causes workforce shortages or other constraints that prevent individual railroads from timely completing all Federally mandated railroad safety tests and inspections, and complying with other requirements related to employee training and qualification.”
FRA determined that, subject to certain conditions, granting the request for relief “is in the public interest, necessary to address the current nationwide emergency situation involving the COVID-19 pandemic, and is not inconsistent with railroad safety … The relief is generally conditioned on the existence of workforce shortages and other constraints … Railroads that find it necessary to utilize the waiver relief … must document the basis on which they concluded that availing themselves of the relief was necessary. Any railroad utilizing any aspect of this waiver is required to report weekly … [to FRA] through their respective industry
FRA granted temporary relief from:
Certain track inspection time-interval-dependent requirements in Part 213.
Operational tests and inspections of employees, which “would allow railroad managers more time to ensure railroads remain operational while addressing anticipated challenges in terms of potential workforce shortages or other constraints. Temporarily suspending these programs is consistent with CDC guidance related to social distancing.”
Current restrictions imposed on utility employees. FRA believes that in the limited circumstances where railroads experience workforce shortages at specific locations, relief “is justified, provided only one utility employee at a time is attached to a train or yard crew.”
Requirements related to the 36-month certification period for locomotive engineers and conductors.
The 60-day deadline for responding to petitions submitted to the Locomotive Engineer Review Board and the Operating Crew Review Board.
Requirements for locomotive engineers unfamiliar with physical characteristics in other than joint operation and requirements for territorial qualifications, respectively. The railroad must first determine that no territorial-qualified engineer or conductor is available. Those who were qualified on the territory but whose qualifications have lapsed must be assigned over an engineer or conductor that was not initially qualified. An engineer certified with “the most demanding service” should be assigned ahead of those engineers with a less demanding service as documented in their individual records. If the locomotive engineer is qualified on the portion of track to be operated over and the conductor is not qualified or whose previous qualification on the portion of track has expired, the train may be operated without restriction. If neither is qualified but the train is PTC active/engaged, the train must operate at a speed not to exceed 40 mph. Without PTC active, the crew must operate at restricted speed with an up-to-date track chart.
The waiver allows railroad employees to conduct “verbal quick tie-ups” at the end of any duty tour to increase social distancing and reduce the use of “common high-touch surfaces” such as computer terminal keyboards. “Employees will not be required to re-enter terminal facilities at the end of their on-duty period, thus avoiding unnecessary contact with other employees from different shifts and/or jobs in the terminal facility and reducing an employee’s need to work at a computer in a terminal facility from two times per shift to one time per shift. Such reductions are consistent with current CDC guidelines,” FRA said.
The waiver also permits locomotive movements between facilities where locomotives have not had inspections and tests within the time periods specified in existing regulations. However, said FRA, “Because the limitation on the movement of defective equipment to the ‘nearest available location where necessary repairs can be performed’ is based on a statutory requirement, FRA does not have the authority to waive this requirement.” But FRA said it “will not take exception to any railroad moving defective equipment to the next forward location where necessary repairs can be performed, where there is adequate staffing and resources available to make the required repairs in a safe manner. Railroads must endeavor to repair defective equipment at locations where qualified mechanical inspectors are present.”
FRA is not waiving the 100%-operative-brakes requirement, but “will not take exception to a railroad operating a train from its initial terminal with 95% operative brakes. Railroads must, however, comply with the remainder of the requirements [for] trains to have at least 85% operable brakes en route … Relief is granted to allow trains … to travel up to 1,200 miles without an intermediate Class IA brake inspection; [and] to travel up to 2,000 miles without an intermediate Class IA brake test. This relief is only granted for those trains, locations or geographic areas where such extended mileage is necessary due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
FRA also granted relief from “the limits on single block pick-ups and single block set-offs … such that railroads may add or remove more than a single block of cars to a train and those cars may be added to any location within a train consist or set-out from any location within a train consist, consistent with the railroad’s train make up requirements. Relief is provided from the requirements governing pre-departure inspections when combining two existing trains (two separate consists including one or more cars and one or more locomotives) that have been properly inspected and tested in compliance with all applicable regulations … without additional inspections, other than a Class III brake test.”
Scope of Relief
FRA said that “limiting the relief … to only the Petitioners’ membership would be insufficient to address the current emergency situation. As a result, FRA is granting all railroads operating within the United States the ability to operate under the terms of this emergency waiver. If a railroad that is not a member of Petitioners’ organizations experiences a workforce shortage or other constraints as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that prevents it from timely completing any of the Federally-mandated railroad safety tests or inspections, or complying with other requirements, that railroad may become party to this waiver and operate under [its] terms.”
The full FRA waiver letter can be downloaded here:
Please see the email below from Labor Relations. The General Chairmen are having a conference call tomorrow regarding this matter.
Union Pacific is vital to the nation. We are an essential transportation company that serves businesses and municipalities throughout this country. We transport food, chemicals that clean our water supply, medical supplies, and basic essentials along with consumer goods that are critically needed during this historical situation. During this stressful time, the country needs us to continue to transport these essential products. Our ability to serve the public will in large measure affect the nation’s ability to meet the challenges and quickly recover from this unprecedented time.
While we must remember the nation is relying on us to do our jobs, Union Pacific does not want anyone to come to work ill. The following Quarantine Temporary Leave Pay Policy is in place to alleviate continued employment and some financial concerns.
If you or an immediate household member or a coworker with whom you have had direct contact tests positive for COVID-19 or has been told by a healthcare professional / Health Department to quarantine for any amount of time as a result of potential exposure (must be documented), please call the Nurse Hotline at 402-544-7011 (Fitness for Duty line) or your local OHN to obtain a Medical Leave of Absence (MLOA). Further, you must alert your supervisor.
If you feel that you may have symptoms of COVID-19, perhaps from unknown community contact, likewise please call the Nurse Hotline (above) to obtain a Medical Leave of Absence (MLOA) by completing a phone interview “intake” questionnaire administered by the Nurse. If the Nurse determines the symptoms and circumstances are consistent with possible COVID-19 exposure and instructs you to quarantine the following governs:
Quarantine Temporary Leave Pay Policy
Employees placed on quarantine by Union Pacific’s Health and Medical Services (HMS) as a result of exposure to COVID-19 will be paid at the basic daily rate of the employee’s assigned class of service less applicable Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) and Supplemental Sickness benefits. Employees are required to follow appropriate CDC Guidelines for self-protection and avoid COVID-19 “hot spots” or experiences (for example: cruises, conventions, large gatherings, etc.) that increase the chance of exposure. This temporary leave pay is only applicable to exposure to the virus occurring while at work at Union Pacific. Union Pacific will pay employees for up to fourteen (14) days – the CDC’s general guideline for quarantine. HMS will provide instructions to the affected employee regarding the quarantine and the claims payment process. Union Pacific will continue to evaluate the need for this policy and may modify and/or terminate the temporary pay policy at any time and without advance notice.
The process for compensation is as follows:
1) HMS (including Occupational Health Nurses (OHNs), as needed) initiates MLOA for employee placed on quarantine.
2) HMS advises Leave Administration of the MLOA
3) HMS provides instructions to employee and forwards or copies Timekeeping (not medical notes, but MLOA designation)
4) Timekeeping communicates with CMS to “turn-off” auto call for Operating employees.
For further information regarding third party benefits, employees should contact:
Railroad Retirement Board Benefits: Employee should call Local RRB Office RRB Sickness or Unemployment Benefits(following RRB prescribed qualification period)
· Employees with less than 10 years – receive up to 130 days of sickness benefits
· Employees with more than 10 years – receive the initial 130 days plus an additional 65 days of extended benefits
Should you need more than the instructed quarantine period to recover from your illness use your unused Vacation, Personal Leave Days, sick or other paid time off granted to you in your CBA.
Union Pacific’s Attendance Policy will be temporarily relaxed to ensure no one that is ill or quarantined by a physician, State / County Health Department or Union Pacific’s Health and Medical Service will not be assessed “points.” These situations will be handled via the MLOA process effectively suspending the accumulation of points. Further, based on a lag in obtaining documentation or due to call volumes and a delay in returning calls, if points are accumulated they will be removed after the fact as timely as possible by authorized Department designated personnel if the above processes are followed and documented.
Please note, Union Pacific seeks to ensure everyone is doing their part. If an employee chooses to ignore CDC guidelines and elects to increase the chance of exposure to themselves and coworkers by participating in international travel (after March 23, 2020), cruises, or large group gatherings, you will not qualify for the Quarantine Temporary Leave Pay Policy.
Please remind your members of the CDC and the World Health Organization recommendations regarding personal protection techniques.
Finally, please remind your members to frequently check the COVID-19 site on the UP page for up to date information on the pandemic.
By working together and following preventative practices and, most important, by showing consideration for others, we can all help protect the health of the Union Pacific family and move the freight the country relies upon.
VP Labor Relations
Union Pacific Railroad
This is a letter sent out by the head of Labor Relations Rod Doerr today. Ive highlighted the really amusing parts in red. Please be safe and screw their attendance policy, If your sick stay home. do whats best for you and your family.
Union Pacific understands that there is concern among its employees regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Union Pacific takes these concerns seriously. While the risk of contracting the virus in the United States is still considered low(fun fact only Washington state and NY have more cases than CA….so I call BS ), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warn that this situation is evolving and likely to continue changing. To minimize the impact of COVID-19 on its employees, Union Pacific has already taken certain actions and plans on taking more. The actions employees can assist are described below.
Union Pacific has updated its Pandemic & Natural Disaster Planning website to provide extensive information on COV-19 and the Company’s policies. A link to that website is provided below, but there is also a link on the UP Employee’s Homepage. This website is the best way for employees to receive up to date COVID-19 information and the Company’s actions in response as letters and emails will not remain relevant for long. Please encourage your members to check this site often since it will be updated frequently.
As we all know, Union Pacific is critical to the nation’s ability to respond to the pandemic. We are critical infrastructure to interstate commerce that serves businesses and municipalities throughout this country. We transport food, chemicals that clean our water supply, medical supplies, and basic essentials along with consumables. Our ability to serve the public will in large measure will affect the nation’s ability to meet the challenges and quickly recover from this unprecedented event.
Union Pacific has updated its Pandemic & Natural Disaster Planning website to provide extensive information regarding COVID-19, the Company’s policies and actions, and any other relevant information. In particular, there is a FAQ section that employees will find useful in answering questions they may have. There is a link to the website on the UP Employee’s Homepage, but can also be found at this address: http://home.www.uprr.com/e/operating/safety/PandemicandNaturalDisasterPlanning/index.htm. This website will be updated frequently to provide the latest information.
• Mr. Lance Fritz, Union Pacific’s President, Chief Executive Officer, and Chairman of the Board, is co-chairing the Business Roundtable CEO COVID-19 Task Force(im sure that will help us all…while hes having a meeting were in a petri dish). This national effort provides Union Pacific unparalleled information and resources to the latest information provided by the Federal Government and business leaders around the Union States.
• The Company developed a relationship with the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) a number of years ago providing us access to doctors and staff at the National Bio Containment Center. These doctors are on retainer for consultation purposes.
• The Company developed a Pandemic Response Protocol with assistance from UNMC. A Pandemic Planning Team (Team) has been activated as part of the protocol. Members of this team include health and safety professionals. This Team is responsible for collecting, analyzing and developing responses to the most current information from various sources. The Team is currently working closely with the various relevant government agencies and public health organizations and thoroughly evaluating next steps. The Pandemic Response Protocol can be found in the Coronavirus section of the Pandemic & Natural Disaster Planning website.
• Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) information is available by speaking with your manager. Company Mangers are stockpiling this material, which may take some time due to limited inventory from suppliers.( please ask your manager for said stockpiled material)
• Travel restrictions have been initiated. No employee is authorized on company business to travel abroad or domestically without prior approval by Senior Management. The Travel Policy and any subsequent updates can be found in the Coronavirus section of the Pandemic & Natural Disaster Planning website and UP’s Homepage.
• The new TE&Y Attendance Policy as did the prior Policy remains unchanged as it relates to sickness.( literally the next sentence )Union Pacific does not want anyone to report to work while ill. One employee in each Operating Region (Senior Director of Operations Support) has been approved to grant “points” relief when an employee reports illness with proper medical documentation. Further an employee has been appointed to address illness related attendance issues in Engineering / Mechanical along with non-Operating Departments.
Note: With the recent announcement by the CDC, where employers have been notified not to anticipate “doctors notes” for employees due to the strain of administrative burdens on the health care system, your members should call the HMS Nurse Hotline (Fitness for Duty line) to complete the intake survey at 402-544-7011 or speak with their local OHN for related questions.
• In-Cab Disinfectant is being used in the locomotive toilet rooms and control stand / conductors desk.(let me know when you find it) The latest research indicates the virus can survive only hours on hard surfaces. Employees are asked to further wipe down these surfaces with wipes provided through the OrrBit Safety Supplies Application or your manager. Further, locomotives are being equipped with a bottle of an antimicrobial solution (Clorox solution) that will be available for crew use to further disinfect surfaces. These bottles will start appearing in locomotive cabs as long as supplies last.
• We anticipate communities will issue forms of travel restrictions / curfews in the days to come. We are working to obtain a letter from officials with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that would allow the bearer of such a letter to traverse curfew lines / access company property due to our “Critical Infrastructure” designation. The attached letter should suffice with local government and law enforcement officials until the FRA letter is issued.
Please remind your members that the CDC and the World Health Organization recommends the following personal protection techniques:
• Avoid close contact with people with acute respiratory infections.
• Wash hands frequently and use hand sanitizer, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment. The CDC recommends washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
• Use antiseptic wipes on shared areas — such as computers, hand scanners, doorknobs, locomotive cabs and tools — before and after use. These wipes may be ordered by way of the Safety Supplies OrrBit App for TE&Y. For other crafts see your local manager.
• Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Place the tissue after use in a resealable bag or used drinking bottle before discarding to prevent further spread of the virus.
• People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands frequently.
• If you or a family member is experiencing symptoms of respiratory illness, please contact your physician for guidance.
Finally, if one of your members is sick, remind them to stay home.
Union Pacific will continue to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak and keep you informed via the COVID-19 link on the Union Pacific Online page. Further, Union Pacific’s Health and Medical team can be reached through the Employee Service Center to answer your questions.
By working together and following prevention practices and, most important, by showing consideration for others, we can all help maintain a healthy workplace.
VP Labor Relations
Union Pacific Railroad
In these unprecedented times, we understand that your members will need our help navigating this period of extreme uncertainty. We are here, fully staffed, and ready to answer their call. We have already received many calls from your members concerned about how their Life and Disability coverages through your GCA Voluntary Plan will handle a COVID-19 (Coronavirus) related sickness or death. It is important that all of your currently participating members understand their Life and Disability coverage DOES cover COVID-19 in the event they contract the virus and cannot work (to include being quarantined after being diagnosed with COVID-19) or die as a result of the virus.
Furthermore, for any of your members that are NOT currently participating, we are happy to announce that elipsLife is offering a One-Time Special Open-Enrollment where all members have the opportunity to add or increase Life Insurance and enroll in Disability coverage on a guaranteed approved basis. This special open-enrollment is NOW OPEN and will remain open through April 30, 2020 and coverage will be effective on May 1, 2020.
While the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) continues to be a rapidly evolving situation there is one thing I can say for certain….we will get through this. Stay positive and please continue to look out for one another.