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Union Pacific CEO on labor negotiations: ‘Pretty far apart right now’

·Reporter
·2 min read
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Union Pacific (UNP) is still locked in negotiations between rail workers and freight railroads over a new labor contract, the CEO said.

"I wish we could have gotten an agreement earlier in the process," Union Pacific's Lance Fritz said on Yahoo Finance Live (video above). "But the railroads and the union leadership are pretty far apart right now in terms of what we think is an appropriate settlement on wages."

The talks, which involve about 115,000 union rail workers and more than 30 railroads, started back in January 2020. Both parties share different views for the new contract, with wages a main sticking point.

A Union Pacific locomotive pulling railcars is visible on tracks in Truckee, California, June 16, 2022. Photo courtesy Sftm. (Photo by Gado/Getty Images)
A Union Pacific locomotive pulling railcars is visible on tracks in Truckee, California, June 16, 2022. Photo courtesy Sftm. (Photo by Gado/Getty Images)

"What the railroad [and] what management is looking for is reasonable wage increases that are reflective of what's happened in the economy in 2020, '21, '22, '23 and '24," Fritz said. "This is a five-year wage package."

According to Fritz, the negotiations were "a long time coming," especially since many of the workers have gone two-and-a-half years without one.

Additionally, he said, "we're also looking for reasonable modernization of work rules, things that have lasted decades and decades that, really, technology can handle today. We're also looking at a reasonable step in the right direction when it comes to health care. Our health care plan is a Cadillac plan and what we need to do is continue to take steps towards mainstream plans for large union employers."

After several attempts by the railroads and their unions to reach an agreement, President Joe Biden intervened and signed an executive order appointing an a presidential panel to help resolve the conflict.

The three-member board is to investigate and get back to Biden in 30 days with its findings. From there, both parties will have 30 days to negotiate and reach an agreement.

Union Pacific Chairman, President and CEO, Lance Fritz speaks during an interview in New York, U.S., June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Union Pacific Chairman, President and CEO, Lance Fritz speaks during an interview in New York, U.S., June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

If that round of negotiations fails, the union could call a strike or the railroads could hold a lockout, which Fritz said he "can't imagine that being a good idea." If it were to happen, though, Congress would likely step in and take action to impose an agreement.

"I'm hopeful we will [reach an agreement]," Fritz said, adding: "We're going to look to see what comes out of the presidential emergency board and then I anticipate we're going to negotiate to an agreement from that."

"I think there is a place to be able to strike an agreement, and I think we're going to get to one," he said.

Dani Romero is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @daniromerotv.

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