Are rail ‘special duty’ jobs really that special?

Published: December 1, 2014

What should union members know before accepting an offer from the railroad to work on a “special duty” assignment?

For starters, “special duty” assignments are generally not positions covered by the agreement with your union. If “special duty” assignments are not covered under your agreement, then you should understand that you do not have the rights and protections afforded to you under your agreement while you are performing these assignments.

It is recommended that you speak with your union representative to learn exactly what your agreement says about “special duty” assignments.

The following are considerations that should be carefully deliberated before accepting these types of assignments:

•Are “special duty” assignments covered under your agreement? What rights and entitlements do you have while working on these assignments?

•In addition to this added work, are you required and/or allowed to perform your regular assignment as well?

•Are you required and/or allowed to work overtime in your own craft while on “special duty” assignments?

•What are the required duties, responsibilities and expectations of employees while working “special duty” assignments?

•Can you refuse to work “special duty” assignments? Can you refuse to perform certain tasks while working on a “special duty” assignment?

•What should you do if the railroad asks you to perform work that violates your agreement?

•What should you do if the railroad asks you to provide them with information regarding matters that may be harmful to your stable work environment?

•What happens if you find yourself subjected to discipline under the railroad’s discipline policies while working on a “special duty” assignment?

•What obligations do you have when the “special duty” assignment ends? Can you stop working on the “special duty” assignment whenever you decide? Can the railroad stop using you on the “special duty” assignment whenever they decide?

As a union member, you are strongly encouraged to notify your union representative prior to considering these types of assignments and seek their advice. In fairness to your fellow brothers and sisters, you should be transparent about the assignment and report any information to your representative that could impact our jobs, our agreement, our union and our future.

This column was prepared by the J.D. Martin Council of Yardmaster General Chairpersons.