If you are a frequent reader of this newsletter, and we hope all members are, then you are familiar with the customary discipline analysis article we publish. The purpose of the biannual article is to identify trends, both positive and negative, and inform all members. This is done with the hope of preventing future occurrences. We customarily breakdown the total number of disciplinary events by infraction category and highlight the severity of the discipline assessed for each. This review helps identify trouble spots and areas of improvement. This is valuable information, but this installment will look at that information through a slightly different lens.
It should be a source of pride that we have only had 38 members subjected to formal discipline thus far in 2023. While there have been 45 members initially charged, several have had their charges dropped or were given a non-punitive training alternative (coach and counsel or RRE). This is quite similar to the number we saw during the same period in 2022 but is a stark deviation from previous years. We are seeing roughly half of the discipline occurrences we were accustomed to seeing prior to 2022. Just like we saw in 2022, we can once again be relieved by the fact less than 40% of those occurrences have resulted in serious discipline being assessed (LS or dismissal). We have historically observed severity percentages reflective of two-thirds or more of our accused members receiving serious discipline.
Has the railroad become a more caring, and empathetic employer? No. The truth is we are in a unique era in our history. We have seen a great many resignations over the last couple of years. When combined with elevated retirement numbers, the result is there are fewer people for the railroad to discipline. While our resignation rates have slowed some in 2023, as compared to 2022, we are still losing people at an unprecedented rate. We are also seeing an uptick in retirements. The combination of those two factors has left the BNSF struggling to hire enough people to keep up. When an employer faces such difficult retention issues, it is quite logical to assume they may think harder before summarily dismissing employees. To date, we have had only two dismissals of BRS members under our committee in 2023.
While these numbers are encouraging, they are certainly not cause to let our guard down. We must continue to be vigilant in following all the Carriers’ rules. The numbers reflected above could be viewed by the eternal optimist as evidence of a gentler railroad. However, the more realistic analysis would suggest we still work for an often-unforgiving employer in an unforgiving work environment. We must also remember the rules at the core of most of our discipline are critical safety rules. We must remain vigilant and continue to focus on following all rules and life-saving processes.