BNSF crew proposal was defeated by 5-1 margin

Published: October 1, 2014

BNSF_Color_LogoOf 3,679 ballots returned, 3,056 were in opposition to the crew consist agreement. Nearly the same number of ballots cast were in opposition to a wage and rule settlement offered by the carrier.

Under the proposal, engineers would have received a pay boost, and conductors would have been given the opportunity to become engineers. It also called for the creation of a “master conductor,” who would be responsible for supervising multiple trains from a fixed or mobile location.

The railroad was seeking to operate most of its trains with a single engineer on trains equipped with positive train control, a collision-avoidance system mandated by Congress in 2008.

It maintained that trains carrying hazardous materials, including those with large volumes of crude oil or ethanol, would still have operated with two people on board.

Prior to releasing the complete vote count Sept. 29, GO 001 General Chairperson Randy Knutson had acknowledged earlier in September that the proposal had failed.

“Please be advised that we have completed the tabulation of ratification ballots for the tentative crew consist agreement and wage and rule settlement, and neither agreement was ratified. A more complete summary of the vote will be forthcoming in the next several weeks, but we felt it was important to provide our members with immediate notification that these agreements were not ratified,” Knutson said.

“Moving forward, this office will notify BNSF Labor Relations that we remain open to informal conversation regarding these matters, but will oppose any formal attempt by BNSF to serve notice to change our existing crew consist agreements prior to the attrition of all protected employees.”

The proposed agreement generated a lot of discussion from Transportation Division members around the country.

In a statement posted on the SMART Transportation Division’s website prior to the voting deadline, Transportation Division President John Previsich noted that, “Our constitution grants the general committees jurisdiction in this area and this organization has successfully defended that right over the years through litigation and arbitration. There are no grounds for any entity to interfere with that right and there will be no attack on that authority by this office or any subordinate body of this organization.

“Nonetheless, it should surprise no one that the proposed agreement is generating a great deal of discussion due to its potential impact beyond its own territory. This office will not interfere with the rights of all of our members to engage in that discussion.”