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9/7/2011



Rail News: Labor

Eleven unions headed for PEB resolution to national contract disputes


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While United Transportation Union members have a national contract in hand with the major freight railroads, members of 11 other rail labor unions continue to wait for their respective union to negotiate a national agreement with the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC).

The National Mediation Board (NMB) recently proffered arbitration to 11 unions negotiating national contracts with the freight railroads through two coalitions. However, the unions rejected the proffers, prompting the NMB to release the two coalitions and 11 unions from federal mediation.

The release triggers a 30-day cooling-off period, during which “it is almost a certainty that President Obama will appoint a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to hear the dispute and make non-binding recommendations for settlement,” said Transportation Communications Union (TCU) officials in a prepared statement, adding that a single PEB likely will be created to hear disputes from all 11 unions.

Negotiations have been at impasse for months because of the carriers’ demands for major health plan changes, said TCU President Bob Scardelletti.

“We are confident that a PEB will take full measure of the industry’s record-setting prosperity,” he said.

The unions refuse to consider a 17 percent wage increase and freeze on employee health care contributions, said A. Kenneth Gradia, chairman of the NCCC — which bargains for more than 30 U.S. railroads, including the Class Is — in a prepared statement.

"We are extremely disappointed by the board's decision to end mediation. It is clear this action reflects the enormous pressure the unions have placed on the board to obtain what we believe is a premature release given that neither coalition has bargained in good faith,” he said. “The two coalitions … have refused to address the constantly escalating costs of employee health care in any meaningful way, despite the railroads' offer to freeze employee cost-sharing contributions.”

The NCCC expects a PEB to be appointed before Oct. 7, at the end of the statutory cooling-off period.

“In the past, PEB recommendations have provided the basis for voluntary settlements. We hope that will be the case in this round and that the nation will not experience disruptions to rail service that could threaten the nation's already fragile economy,” said Gradia.


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