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The National Railway Labor Conference (NRLC) last week announced that an arbitration board has ruled that the pattern health-care terms adopted by the freight railroads and nine unions in national bargaining should apply to the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes (BMWE) and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART-Mechanical Division).The two unions previously agreed to the other terms of the pattern agreement, which now covers 137,000 of the 145,000 employees in the current bargaining round.The board also ordered a reduction in the covered employees' retroactive pay to cover the carriers' cost of delay in the implementation of the pattern health-care terms, according to an NRLC press release."We are pleased the board recognized that the negotiated changes to health care should apply to these two unions as well, and that the costs to the carriers of implementation delay should be addressed," said A. Kenneth Gradia, chairman of the National Carriers' Conference Committee (NCCC), the railroads' bargaining representative. "The award affirms the importance of consistent health care terms for freight rail employees and should lead to the resolution of negotiations with the remaining union."BMWE and SMART-Mechanical Division represent more than 28,000 employees in this bargaining round. The railroads remain in mediation with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents about 5 percent of the employees in this bargaining round.The following unions previously concluded negotiations with the railroads: American Train Dispatchers Association; Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen; Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; Brotherhood Railway Carmen; International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers ─ Transportation Division, including Yardmasters; International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Blacksmiths, Iron Ship Builders, Forgers and Helpers; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; National Conference of Firemen and Oilers; and Transportation Communications International Union.A committee of the National Railway Labor Conference, the NCCC represents more than 30 railroads — including BNSF Railway Co., CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern Railway and Union Pacific Railroad — in national bargaining with the 12 rail unions.