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10/9/2001



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

BLE disputes UTU's remote-control jurisdiction claim as 'attempt to circumvent the law'


United Transportation Union Oct. 4 announced it had signed letters of intent with all U.S. Class Is assigning remote-control operations to the railroads' UTU-represented employees.
UTU claims the union and Burlington Northern Santa Fe, CSX Transportation, Kansas City Southern Railway, Norfolk Southern Railway and Union Pacific Railroad also are committed to reaching a definitive agreement on compensation, training, safety, job protection and other employee-affected issues tied to beginning remote-control operations.
"[The letter of intent] assures that UTU will sit at the head of the table to plan and control the introduction of all new technology, including remote control," said UTU International President Byron Boyd Jr. in a prepared statement. "Past attempts by unions to stop new technology, such as the introduction of radios and elimination of cabooses in favor of end-of-train devices, sent the operating union into full retreat."
UTU officials Oct. 3 in Cleveland discussed the letters of intent with top officers of Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers — UTU's on-again, off-again merger partner.
Off again might well describe the unions current status, as BLE International President Don Hahs Oct. 5 challenged UTU's "attempt to circumvent the law and gain jurisdiction over remote control technology," claiming BLE is the union carriers must bargain with to implement new technology.
Hahs also said any UTU-carrier agreement regarding remote controls will be treated as a direct violation of BLE's rights to bargain on behalf of its members.
BLE officials claim that Federal Railroad Administration still hasn't issued what the union believes are enforceable guidelines governing remote control use — something the union requested in November 2000.
"If UTU is prepared to abandon its previously stated commitment to rail safety with this apparent sweetheart deal with the carriers, we have to question whether UTU is really committed to rail worker solidarity, as it claims," said Hahs.
UTU's Boyd said a BLE merger would include carriers as participants in the technology-introducing process, but after recent friction between the unions, a merger seems unlikely in the near future.
"We had hoped to continue working jointly with UTU on the remote control issue … but after yesterday's actions, we acted swiftly to protect the jobs and working conditions of BLE members," said Hahs.


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