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February 2008

Rail News: Labor

Better late than never for the UTU and carriers' conference

After three years of on and off bargaining, the United Transportation Union (UTU) and National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) reached a tentative agreement last month. Pending ratification, the pact would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2005, and expire on Dec. 31, 2009.

The agreement would cover about 46,000 conductors, brakemen, engineers, firemen, hostlers, switchmen and yardmasters employed by the more than 30 railroads, including the Class Is, that bargain collectively through the NCCC. The contract would provide a 17 percent general wage increase over the life of the agreement, retain a cost-of-living adjustment and cap health-care contributions, according to the UTU.

Two-day turnaround

The parties reached the tentative agreement two days after resuming negotiations Jan. 21. Contract talks, which began in November 2004, broke down in January 2007 over disagreements concerning new hire training and entry-level wages. The UTU later sued the NCCC in federal court, claiming a two-tier pay system and inadequate new hire training would hinder recruitment and retention efforts, and compromise safety.

Although bargaining presented many challenges, “our ability to successfully reach an agreement once again demonstrates that voluntary bargaining continues to work well in the rail industry,” said NCCC Chairman Robert Allen in a prepared statement.

Give-and-take bargaining efforts last month helped Canadian National Railway Co. reach a tentative four-year agreement with the UTU that would place virtually all the Class I’s U.S. train and engine-service employees under hourly rate contracts.

Expiring July 31, 2010, and retroactive to Aug. 1, 2006, the UTU pact would cover 600 conductors and brakemen at CN’s former Illinois Central and Chicago, Central & Pacific properties.

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers- and United Steelworkers-
represented workers already blessed their CN contracts last month. Covering 3,000 track maintenance workers, the steelworkers’ pact includes wage increases, extended health-care benefits and a new post-retirement health program; covering 700 employees who maintain signals and communication systems, the electrical workers’ contract increases wages and improves benefits.

Meanwhile, Canadian Pacific Railway late last month reached a tentative three-year agreement with the Canadian Auto Workers and averted a strike set to launch on Jan. 29 — the day the current contract expired. The parties had been negotiating an agreement since October 2007. Pending ratification, the pact will cover 2,500 shopcraft workers through 2010.


Browse articles on rail labor United Transportation Union UTU National Carriers Conference Canadian Pacific

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