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Rail News Home Labor

10/31/2003



Rail News: Labor

BLE, Texas Mexican Railway ink remote-control pact


On Oct. 31, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and The Texas Mexican Railway Co. announced they'd reached what BLE terms a "landmark agreement" that "allows for the safe implementation of remote-control operations and provides major pay raises."

Ratified by an 81 percent majority of BLE-represented workers, the agreement gives remote-control assignments to both locomotive engineers and conductors. It includes job protections for both crafts, ensuring that no current employees will lose their jobs or be furloughed due to remote-control implementation, according to BLE.

"What the BLE was able to accomplish in the Tex-Mex agreement is to return to the historic manner in filling these assignments," BLE International Vice President Merle Geiger said. "We have placed a qualified locomotive engineer in the Lead Remote Operator position and conductors will fill the Remote Operator position."

There'll no longer be "yard assignments" at the Tex-Mex; yard assignments have been replaced by "traveling switch engines," or TSEs, Geiger said. In addition to performing work outside of terminal limits, TSEs will handle the switching formerly performed by yard assignments.

"The operators under the BLE Agreement will have the flexibility to operate in the traditional mode when it makes sense to do so and will alleviate some of the safety concerns that we have with the remote control operations in place on the Class I," Geiger said. "Further, the carrier will have the flexibility to use remote-control crews to do traditional work, such as 'dog-catching,' staging trains outside the terminal, and doing outside terminal work that requires a certified locomotive engineer at the controls of the locomotive."

Train crews will be "compensated handsomely" for their increased flexibility and efficiency, according to BLE's statement — some crew members could receive pay increases of 45 percent, said BLE Tex-Mex General Chairman George Leyendecker.

Even so, BLE "still has some very grave concerns over the manner in which remote control locomotive operations have been introduced into the industry," Geiger said, adding that BLE "still believes that the Federal Railroad Administration has not done its duty in setting forth regulations regarding the operation of remote control and in establishing the proper
training of remote control operators."




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