Dear Brothers & Sisters,
As many of you are aware, the LIRR has suddenly taken an aggressive stance towards safety. They claim to be concerned that we make it home to our families at the end of the day, but they cannot fool us. We all know that their words are empty. They are only interested in self- preservation. Management has had their safety meetings with many of you and tried to steer the narrative a certain way, but you saw through it because you’re a savvy group that can sniff them out from far away. Here is the other side.
Several weeks ago while working in Grand Central Madison, three of our members came as close as it comes to an on duty fatality. They had a proper job briefing and followed all the rules and still barely avoided being struck by a train. Although they did nothing wrong the three men were relieved of their duties and escorted to Mineola for a drug test and kept out of work with pay pending the results. According to management on the scene, this was due to a new policy instituted by Safety. That information was not accurate and no new policy was distributed. It is more accurate to say that after the Divide 4 Third Railman incident, it was revealed that the LIRR was guilty of lax enforcement of the regulations for many years and they intended to swing the pendulum back and now enforce the regs to the letter of the law.
The BRS asked for a safety stand down and was ignored. When we accused the Carrier of ignoring us, they admitted it and justified the decision due to “something big that is coming in a few weeks.” At that point we conferenced with BRS Grand Lodge and they were understandably as upset as us. Vice President of Commuter/Passenger Rail, Tim Tarrant, wrote to the LIRR and pointed out that a seasoned Foreman informed the LIRR several months ago that something like this would happen and he was ignored. His words were in fact prophetic and the LIRR admitted that they had intentions of getting back to him but never did. Not only did they ignore that Foreman but also the LIRR was upset at the BRS for informing the FRA that GCM was not ready to open. I will give them one thing, now that we have their attention they have agreed to a series of meetings to establish better protection in GCM, but due to ribbon cutting ceremonies and campaign promises, GCM was hastily opened too soon and we are still not working in a safe environment.
While we have been waiting for action by the LIRR, a close call incident was reported near Forest Hills Station on April 13. Many of you have heard about this but the final decision by the Carrier was not made until today. Four BRS members were working on the Main Line utilizing a gang watchman and they had a half mile line of site from bridge to bridge. A Locomotive Engineer approaching the gang at 74 MPH dumped his equipment into emergency and the gang allegedly cleared in just under 15 seconds. The four employees in the gang were removed from
service and two of them were held out without pay for 9 working days. The incident took place on April 13 and the two employees OOS without pay were not even issued a trial notice until April 20 at the request of the BRS to expedite the case and stop leaving these two men dangling and stressing about their future. Several managers, supervisors and foremen stood up and advocated for our brothers. They explained to the Carrier how difficult our jobs are and the fallacy of judging this incident as if there is one textbook method of performing our craft work in MAS territory. The BRS was informed that collectively we had changed hearts and minds, and it was expected that the mitigating factors would lead to a lesser punishment and some form of leniency...The Carrier did not budge in the slightest bit. There was no leniency, there was no compassion, and our two brothers had to choose between time served or a trial where they were obviously deemed guilty until proven innocent. All we need to do is look to the fact that the employees were admonished to not discuss the case, while management barnstormed the property and told all of you at your safety meetings about the incident. It should also be noted that the Carrier deliberately left the BRS out of the safety meetings even though we are often asked to “help them with messaging.”
I am sorry for being so long winded but it has been one insult after another. Whether it is how they botched the Covid response, the questionable vaccination policies, kronos outage, late retro payments, taking back money that we now have to fight them to give back, and now this new attack under the guise of safety?
I am bringing this to the President. The BRS wants actions, not words. And I want to remind you all of two things. One, managers are not your friends. It doesn’t matter who helped you get a job or helped you get a few hours of overtime, because when we need them they lay down and allow the Carrier to do whatever they want. Two, remember that sometimes the job cannot get done. They can have it done correctly, and safely, but not on their precious schedule unless they bolster the manpower and the window to accomplish the job. If they are going to set us up for failure, we cannot be saving their hides each time they have an arbitrary deadline to meet. There is nothing illegal about that, they cannot call it a concerted effort or any of the weasel words they accuse us with.