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Members of the SMART Transportation Division employed by Keolis Rail Services earlier this month ratified a new three-year agreement to continue service on the Virginia Railway Express (VRE).Of ballots returned, 78 percent voted in favor of the contract, which calls for annual pay increases of 2.5 percent, according to a press release issued by the United Transportation Union (UTU).The SMART division represents conductors, assistant conductors and a new class of employees termed ACE, a designation applied to conductors or assistant conductors who volunteer to be trained and qualified as locomotive engineers, the press release states.The agreement calls for the first wage increase to take effect July 1. In addition, employees covered by the agreement will receive a $1,000 signing bonus on or after June 15."When coupled with the increases already received from the date of the last contract, the wage increases will meet the industry standard for nearly 15 percent over five years," said Amtrak GO 769 General Chairperson Dirk Sampson, who served as leader of the SMART division's negotiating team.Keolis took over VRE train operations from Amtrak in July 2010 after VRE signed a five-year, $85 million contract with Keolis in 2009.
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