Five hundred locomotive engineers employed by New Jersey Transit will begin receiving ballots in the mail this week from their national union seeking authorization to call a strike at the nation’s third-largest commuter railroad, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen said.
NJ Transit’s locomotive engineers, members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, have been seeking a new contract since October 2019. The contract dispute has been in National Mediation Board-sponsored mediation for nearly three years.
NJ Transit has been insisting that engineers adhere to “pattern bargaining” with other NJ Transit work groups. The union maintains that NJ Transit should have wages closer to engineers’ wages at other commuter railroads. With the exception of one other transit agency, NJ Transit’s engineers are the lowest-paid engineers working in commuter service in the nation.
Currently, certified locomotive engineers are in high demand at both freight and passenger railroads and can’t be easily replaced. Shortages of engineers leading to train delays and cancellations are not without precedent.
“The absence of a pay raise during a period of high inflation has persisted for four years, which is too long. Our members cannot continue working for subpar wages. They have had enough,” BLET National President Eddie Hall said. “The employer’s delay tactics and priorities are causing some of NJT’s engineers to think about leaving. Many options are available because of the shortage of engineers across the country.”
BLET members working for NJT will receive a mailing from the BLET National Division over the next few days with voting instructions. The deadline for receipt of ballots is at noon Aug. 31. Members who are eligible and have not received a strike authorization packet by Aug. 21 should call the National Division at 216-241-2630.
“I am confident that 100% of the ballots returned will be in favor of striking New Jersey Transit,” Hall said. “We will be one step closer to ‘self-help’ once the ballots are counted later this month and just prior to the Labor Day weekend. I want to stress that BLET shall comply with the rules of the Railway Labor Act. However, once released by the National Mediation Board, we will be ready to act. What we really want is a fair contract for engineers and to ensure uninterrupted train services for passengers.”