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TWU members approve SEPTA pact; FRA denies BLET/UTU attempt to prohibit one-person crews


Yesterday, Transport Workers Union Local 234 members overwhelmingly voted in favor of a new five-year contract with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). The agency and union reached an agreement earlier this month after members of the local — which represents 5,100 SEPTA drivers, operators and mechanics — staged a six-day strike.

The contract calls for a $1,250 bonus in the first year, 2.5 percent wage increase in the second year and 3 percent pay hikes in each of the final three years. SEPTA’s board soon will conduct a special meeting to approve the contract.

Meanwhile the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recently denied the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen’s (BLET) and United Transportation Union’s (UTU) joint petition for an emergency order prohibiting one-person crews in conventional and remote-control yard switching operations. There is “no factual evidence” to support such a prohibition, according to the FRA.

“Since these particular one-person operations are new, we have no prior data with which to compare conventional operations and have little prior experience with these operations,” FRA officials said in their decision. “Accordingly, we intend to monitor these operations very closely.”

The agency recommends that safety impact studies be conducted prior to implementing workload changes, such as transferring certain additional tasks and responsibilities to a single individual, which could result in “information overload” and/or “diminished situational awareness.”

The prohibition will remain the UTU’s top priority before the FRA and Congress because “no conditions exist where one-person operations are safe,” said UTU International President Mike Futhey in a statement posted on the union’s Web site.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/23/2009