Amtrak General Chairperson Dirk Sampson (GO 769), issued the following update on wage, benefits and work rules negotiations with Amtrak:
“In continuing contract talks with Amtrak, we are striving to obtain an equitable agreement for our members.
“We recently sent a letter to Amtrak President Joseph Boardman and Amtrak Vice President of Labor Relations Charles Woodcock outlining our position.
“Certification pay and the interpretation of single days continue to be the obstacles holding us up. I remain confident that with the efforts of our UTU negotiating team, we will be able to obtain an agreement that will be beneficial to the Amtrak members.”
Negotiating with Sampson is Amtrak General Chairperson Bill Beebe (GO 663), assisted by International Vice President John Previsich.
Dirk Sampson, now acting general chairperson for Amtrak GO 769, issued the following update on wage, benefits and work rules negotiations with Amtrak following the death of General Chairperson Roger Lenfest.
Sampson will join with Amtrak General Chairperson Bill Beebe (GO 663) to lead those negotiations, with International Vice President John Previsich continuing to provide assistance.
Said Sampson: “We are continuing negotiations with Amtrak with a goal of obtaining an equitable agreement for our members. Certification and the interpretation of single days are important issues to Amtrak conductors and assistant conductors.
“With the continued efforts of both the general committees, and the assistance of International Vice President John Previsich, we will obain an equitable agreement.”
Sampson said the next negotiating session with Amtrak is tentatively scheduled for July 22.
General Chairperson Roger Lenfest (Amtrak, GO 769), age 65, died July 10 following a short illness.
Lenfest, of Sicklerville, N.J., succeeded Al Suozzo as general chairperson following Suozzo’s death in March 2010.
Assistant General Chairperson Dirk Sampson becomes acting general chairperson for GO 769. Suozzo had held the post almost 18 years.
A member of UTU Local 898 (Boston), and a native of Vermont, Lenfest held UTU membership since March 1971. Earlier in his UTU officer career, Lenfest was a general chairperson on Boston & Maine (now part of Pan Am Railways).
GO 769 represents UTU conductors and assistant conductors on Amtrak (New York City south to Washington, D.C., and on non-Northeast Corridor Amtrak passenger trains nationwide), as well as on Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad, Virginia Railway Express, South Florida Tri-Rail and Los Angeles MetroLink.
In March, Lenfest and Sampson led negotiations with MBCR that resulted in a ratified agreement, and in May Lenfest led successful negotiations toward a new ratified agreement with South Florida Tri-Rail.
Most recently, Lenfest has been negotiating with Amtrak for a new agreement on wages, benefits and work rules. Sampson will succeed Lenfest at the negotiating table, joining General Chairperson Bill Beebe (Amtrak, GO 663) to lead those talks with Amtrak. UTU International Vice President John Previsich will continue to assist in those Amtrak negotiations.
Lenfest is survived by his wife, Debra, two sons, six brothers, a sister and three grandchildren.
Prayer service at noon Tuesday, July 19, with a calling time from 10 a.m. to noon at the Ingersoll-Greenwood Funeral Home, 1201 Central Ave., North Wildwood, N.J. In lieu of flowers the family requests memorials in his name to the Our Lady of Angels Church, 35 E. Mechanic Street, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210.
Collective bargaining with Amtrak over revisions to the current wages, benefits and work rules agreement continues.
This report to the membership follows a briefing we provided the general committee during its recent quadrennial meeting.
Railway Labor Act Section 6 notices were exchanged with Amtrak in January 2010, and numerous bargaining sessions have been held since, with Amtrak General Chairpersons Roger Lenfest and Bill Beebe leading the UTU negotiators. I am serving as an adviser.
The next bargaining session is scheduled for mid-June.
Discussed at the most recent bargaining session in Philadelphia were improvements to the rates of pay, rules and working conditions, including conductor certification pay and an improved away-from-home meals allowance.
Given that Congress recently slashed federal assistance payments to Amtrak — and Amtrak is responding with an attempt to cut all its costs across the board — the negotiations are especially difficult.
In the face of these challenges, our negotiating team is working closely with the UTU’s financial and health care experts and the UTU National Legislative Office to ensure we are fully armed with concrete facts and data to support the items in our Section 6 notice.
At the most recent negotiating session, Amtrak restated its position that funds are not available for any costs beyond those already contemplated in its earlier proposal to the UTU. Amtrak says that given the difficult economic times, it isn’t possible to improve their initial offer.
In response, our UTU negotiating team advised Amtrak that their proposal is not acceptable — that it is “bare bones” and does not address many of the issues of concern to UTU members.
We told Amtrak that items in our Section 6 notice come directly from the membership as a result of membership outreach efforts by general chairpersons Beebe and Lenfest, and that each and every item requires good faith consideration during the negotiating process.
We continue to utilize an interest-based bargaining approach that takes into account the needs of both parties when crafting a final settlement. Interest-based bargaining historically has proven very effective in obtaining a satisfactory resolution, oftentimes producing results that are more favorable than those that can be obtained from a traditional demand-based negotiating process.
However, for the interest-based process to be successful, both parties must be fully committed to considering the needs and desires of each participating group. We maintain that a “take it or leave it” offer by Amtrak flies in the face of interest-based bargaining — and we have made that clear to Amtrak.
Amtrak responded that it will come to the next bargaining session in mid-June fully prepared to discuss the items set forth in our Section 6 notice.
While the UTU will continue to employ an interest-based strategy in negotiations, our negotiating team is fully prepared to move forward with a more traditional style of negotiations if at any time it appears that would be a more productive route.
The objective of the UTU negotiating team remains obtaining the best possible agreement for our members during these challenging economic times. As such, we will employ whatever proves to be the most effective strategy in accomplishing our goal.
The next negotiating session is planned for mid-June, and an update will be provided UTU members following that bargaining session.
Amtrak maintenance-of-way employees say they want a new wage package at least equivalent to what is paid on the highly profitable freight railroads, reports Angela Greiling Keane for Bloomberg. But unlike profitable freight railroads, Amtrak loses about $1 billion annually, says Bloomberg.
Bob Poole, founder of the Reason Foundation, a think tank advocating smaller government and more privatization — and expected to have influence on a new Congress heavily peppered with conservative Tea Party members — calls the BMWE demand “well beyond what the public would think is reasonable given the state of the economy and what’s happened to private sector compensation over the last couple of years,” reports Bloomberg.
Amtrak funding by Congress next year will face “much tougher scrutiny than they have ever had” as the House Republican leadership and a more conservative Senate consider deficit reduction, Poole told Bloomberg.
Congress determines Amtrak’s annual subsidy — $1.58 billion in fiscal year 2010, reports Bloomberg — and could cut back on Amtrak funding or impose its own labor agreement if negotiations between Amtrak and any of its unions reaches an impasse and the sides cannot agree to recom
mendations of a presidential emergency board. Under the Railway Labor Act, existing contracts remain in force until amended.
Bloomberg quotes BMWE official Jed Dodd as urging his members to hold out for more than the almost 15 percent over five years already agreed to by the Transportation Communications Union (TCU) and Amtrak. The UTU is still in contract negotiations with Amtrak.
During the previous round of Amtrak negotiations — which took eight years to conclude — Amtrak agreed to wage increases of some 35 percent over 10 years, reports Bloomberg. That agreement was retroactive to 2000.
UTU general chairpersons on Nov. 2 served on railroads represented by the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC) the UTU’s intended amendments to agreements affecting rates of pay, rules and working conditions.
Such notices are required by Section 6 of the Railway Labor Act and are served on each other by parties to existing agreements.
The national rail contract between the UTU and railroads represented by the NCCC became amendable on Jan. 1, 2010.
The existing contract will remain in force until tentantively negotiated amendments are presented to UTU members and ratified under the craft autonomy provisions of the UTU Constitution.
During this round of national contract negotiations with the UTU, the NCCC will be the chief bargaining representative for BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, Soo Line, Union Pacific and numerous smaller railroads.
Other railroads, including Amtrak and U.S. operations of Canadian National, negotiate individually with the UTU.
Some 40,000 UTU members are affected by these national contract talks with the NCCC, and the resulting agreements frequently set patterns for other negotiated rail agreements.
UTU International President Mike Futhey, who headed the UTU team that negotiated the most recent member-ratified amendments to the existing agreement, will lead the UTU negotiating team in this round of collective bargaining. Members of the negotiating team will be selected later in November.
Other rail labor unions will negotiate their own agreements with the NCCC.
Major elements of the UTU’s Section 6 notices include:
Complete and permanent elimination of existing service scale (entry rates of pay).
Complete and permanent elimination of the two-tier pay system.
A series of general wage increases, effective Jan. 1, 2010, and every six months thereafter.
Cost of living adjustments.
A crew calling window structure or no less than a 10-hour call.
A process to resolve fatigue issues relative to cross-craft utilization, inaccurate line-ups and manipulation of pool crew boards caused by paper deadheading and dropping of turns.
Compensation for certifying as a conductor (certification to be established by the FRA as directed by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008).
Peer related craft pay for training periods.
Carriers to give first employment consideration to qualified conductors furloughed from other railroads.
Furloughed employees called back to work will be guaranteed a minimum of 60 days of work and pay.
Increased meal allowances.
Restrictions on transferring, consolidating, combining or centralizing yardmaster assignments.
Establishment of a formula for yardmaster extra boards.
Enhanced benefits under the NRC/UTU Health and Welfare Plan and the Railroad Employees’ National Health and Welfare Plan (GA-23000).
UTU Section 6 notices were developed beginning with recommendations offered by UTU members.
A committee of general chairpersons from the Association of General Chairpersons, District 1, reviewed and fine-tuned those suggestions, which were then approved by the entire Association of General Chairpersons, District 1.