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Rail News: Labor

UTU, carriers' conference finally hammer out tentative contract


It took nearly three years of bargaining — and sometimes contentious negotiations — but the United Transportation Union (UTU) and National Carriers' Conference Committee (NCCC) have finally reached a tentative agreement. Pending ratification by UTU members, the pact would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2005, and expire on Dec. 31, 2009.

Reached Wednesday, the agreement would cover 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.

The parties reached the tentative agreement only two days after resuming negotiations. Contract talks, which began in November 2004, broke down in January 2007 over disagreements concerning the training of new employees 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.

UTU and NCCC officials have "made commitments to a cooperative process that returns the industry to a spirit of interest-based resolution of matters of mutual concern," union officials said in a news item posted on the UTU's Web site.

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.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/25/2008