Freight railroad unions and management reached a tentative deal to avert a strike, addressing a key attendance policy that had been holding up the deal. The tentative agreement will exempt “time off for certain medical events from carrier attendance policies,” according to a joint statement from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART). The unions said if this issue was not addressed in the new contract, workers would strike at 12:01 am ET Friday morning. A points-based attendance policy made it hard for workers to take time off for sick leave, because members would lose points – and the only way to get them back was to work more – or face penalty, according to the unions. Members will get one additional paid day off as well as voluntary assigned days off. “Most importantly, for the first time ever, the agreement provides our members with the ability to take time away from work to attend to routine and preventive medical care, as well as exemptions from attendance policies for hospitalizations and surgical procedures,” the statement read. The agreement also gives union members an immediate 14% raise with back pay dating back to 2020. It also includes raises totaling 24% during the five-year life of the contract, that runs from 2020 through 2024. It also gives them cash bonuses of $1,000 a year for five-year life of the contract. There will be no copay or deductible increases or changes to health care. Monthly health care costs will freeze at the end of the five-year agreement, according to the statement. The agreement will now go to members for a vote for ratification.