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4/8/2008



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Six unions seek reconsideration of FRA rule; BLET members ratify short-line contract


Six rail labor unions have asked the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to reconsider a planned April 14 imposition of civil penalties against rail employees proven guilty of violating certain operating rules.

The civil penalties are part of an FRA final rulemaking that establishes individual liability for failure to properly position switches and derails, protect the point on shoving movements, and leave cars clear of adjacent tracks and crossovers.

A joint labor-management working group that participated in drafting the new rule could not reach consensus on all provisions contained in the final rule, according to the United Transportation Union (UTU), which is seeking the reconsideration in a joint petition with the American Train Dispatchers Association, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen and Brotherhood Railway Carmen Division of the Transportation Communications Union.

The FRA issued the rulemaking in response to Norfolk Southern Corp.'s January 2005 train accident in Graniteville, S.C., and a similar BNSF Railway Co. accident that both involved an improperly aligned switch, the UTU said. The six unions believe civil penalties aren't "good public policy" for improving rail safety.

"Railroad employees who understand how to work by the existing operating rules will see no change from the application of this new regulation," said UTU Alternate National Legislative Director James Stem in a news item posted on the union's Web site. "However, the imposition of civil penalties would encourage an employee not to report the need for immediate corrective action in an attempt to evade accountability.

Meanwhile, BLET members have ratified a second agreement with the Missouri & Northern Arkansas Railroad. The four-year pact covers 90 workers and provides a general wage increase package of 10 percent over the life of the contract.

In 1999, the BLET organized the employees, whose first negotiated agreement took effect in April 2000. A RailAmerica Inc. subsidiary, Missouri & Northern operates 540 miles of track in Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri, and interchanges with Union Pacific Railroad, BNSF Railway Co. and Kansas City Southern.


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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