A tentative deal was secured by U.S. President Joe Biden and his emergency team on Thursday between railway unions and railroad companies, narrowly avoiding a union strike that would have been damaging towards the U.S. economy had it occurred.

The deal, which was brokered by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, was reached after 20 hours of talks between the unions and the railway companies, with the unions’ workers agreeing not to strike as they vote on the tentative deal over the next few weeks, according to Reuters.

The freight railroad workers have threatened to strike on Friday if their demands were not met by the railroad companies, with the unions having been negotiating a new contract for its 100,000-strong worker base for several years, NPR reported.

While the companies and the unions were able to agree on a 24% increase in wages, the contentious point was the attendance policy that many railway companies had that decreased their quality of life, including being unable to get sick days without incurring discipline. The tentative deal reportedly addresses these concerns.

“This abusive and punitive attendance policy is breaking apart families and causing locomotive engineers and other railroaders to come to work dangerously fatigued,” the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen said in a statement.

“It is a win for tens of thousands of rail workers who worked tirelessly through the pandemic to ensure that America's families and communities got deliveries of what have kept us going during these difficult years,” Biden said in the announcement of the deal.

Many unions will have to persuade workers to vote on the deal due to many of them being overworked by the draconian attendance policies as well as the pandemic forcing layoffs from the companies which they have yet to address.

“There's a lot of anger among the members of these two unions because they feel, after being essential workers during the COVID pandemic, they were getting screwed on the attendance policy and getting punished for taking sick leave,” Northeastern University professor Seth Harris said.

U.S. President Joe Biden averted a devastating nationwide railway strike on Thursday as a tentative deal was reached between railway workers' unions and the railroad companies. This is a representational image. Jakub Nawrot/Unsplash.

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