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Rail News Home Labor

February 2008

Rail News: Labor

Railroads and rail labor unions — That’s settled

Labor’s been the hot topic in the transit industry of late, with several unions reaching agreements with their respective railroads.

On Jan. 18, Amtrak and nine rail labor unions reached a tentative settlement, avoiding a Jan. 30 strike that would have crippled national and some local intercity passenger-rail services, as well as some facilities, such as Penn Station. The pact would cover about 16,000 workers who have been without a contract for eight years.

Amtrak would not comment on the contract pending union ratification, but spokesman Cliff Black did say that back pay and work rules were the two contentious issues.

The contract’s terms closely follow recommendations given Dec. 30 by a Presidential Emergency Board, including 35.2 percent wage increases retroactive from Jan. 1, 2000, to Dec. 31, 2009.

Amtrak reached agreements with the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division; Transportation Communications Union; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers; Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; American Train Dispatchers Association; National Conference of Firemen & Oilers/Service Employees International Union; and American Railway & Airline Supervisors Association (Maintenance of Equipment and Maintenance of Way divisions).

Meanwhile, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen ratified an agreement with New Jersey Transit on Dec. 14.

And on Jan. 30, New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) board approved agreements with 17 of MTA Long Island Rail Road’s (LIRR) bargaining units. Union members signed the contracts last month. Retroactive to Jan. 1, 2007 and running through June 15, 2010, the contract includes wage increases of 4 percent effective Jan. 1, 2007; 3.5 percent effective Jan. 1, 2008; and 3 percent effective in January 2009. It also includes two provisions that reduce future pension costs for LIRR while providing improvements to other benefit levels.

The contracts cover workers represented by the United Transportation Union (UTU), Transportation Communications International Union, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Independent Railway Supervisors Association, National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association and UTU Yardmasters.

Seeking stronger ties

Perhaps the agreements will help MTA bolster labor/management ties — one of the authority’s focuses of late. Last month, MTA released a blue ribbon panel report on workforce development, which recommended 61 ways the agency could foster a better relationship between labor and management.

Formed in May, the eight-member panel was co-chaired by former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch and mediator/arbitrator Hezekiah Brown. Members conducted interviews with employees and union representatives, analyzed data, visited field workers and researched industry practices to obtain insight into workforce issues.

Based on their findings, panel members developed recommendations in five areas: organizational culture, workforce development, succession planning, employee availability and labor-management relations.

MTA officials now will begin developing an implementation plan.


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