Amtrak employees represented by SMART Transportation Division General Committees of Adjustment GO-769, GO-663, and GO-342 (Conductors, Assistant Conductors, and Yardmasters) voted in overwhelming favor of ratifying a tentative agreement reached last month.
The agreement, effective April 1, 2018, provides a compounded 18.83 percent pay increase over the life of the contract, which runs through 2021, plus retroactive pay.
The contract also caps monthly healthcare contributions at $228 while adding services such as telemedicine and a fixed 24-month continuation of coverage period, among others. It establishes AMPLAN 1A, a lower-cost healthcare plan that will be available to all employees beginning Jan. 1, 2019, and compulsory for new hires during their first five years of service.
For members of the military who lose earnings because of their service, the agreement accounts for up to 120 hours of “make whole” pay.
SMART TD President John Previsich and Vice Presidents John England and John Lesniewski led the negotiating team, and a tentative agreement was reached Jan. 11.
“Their combined efforts were instrumental in reaching our goal of gaining wage increases and certification allowances that are comparable to industry standards,” General Chairperson Dirk Sampson (GO-769) said in a Feb. 6 letter to his membership announcing the vote results.
General Chairperson Robert Keeley (GO-342) in a letter to his membership expressed gratitude to leadership and to fellow members of the negotiating committee, including Vice General Chairperson Charlie Yura and Secretary Rick Pauli.
“We walked into negotiations together and we found success together,” Keeley said.
As did his fellow GCs, Fran Ariola, general chairperson of GO-663, expressed appreciation to leadership, members of the negotiating team, his colleagues and to his membership.
“I would like to thank you for this opportunity to represent our GCA and our members during this negotiation process,” Ariola wrote in a Feb. 6 letter.
In preparation for a new operator of Caltrain commuter service in Northern California, the UTU has moved to protect its members who choose to transfer from Amtrak to the new operator.
Caltrain operates south from San Francisco to San Jose and Gilroy.
TransitAmerica Services, Inc. (TASI), a subsidiary of Herzog Transit Services, will replace Amtrak as operator of Caltrain beginning May 26, following a rebid process by the Joint Powers Board that controls the commuter operation. Amtrak has operated Caltrain since 1992. TASI won a five-year operating agreement that begins in May.
The UTU has reached an agreement with TASI, recognizing the UTU as the representative of conductors and assistant conductors who will be hired by TASI. The agreement governs rules, rates of pay and working conditions for conductors and assistant conductors on TASI, giving first right of hire to Amtrak employees who are working in the service as of May 25.
In the event that the number of Amtrak conductors and assistant conductors who apply for employment on TASI — and who are hired — exceeds the number of positions available at startup, such applicants will be placed on hiring pool list for subsequent employment.
UTU-represented conductors and assistant conductors in Amtrak Zone CS-2 on May 26 will, as a result of the change in operators, have no Amtrak positions left to work, and will be placed in home terminal/displaced status under provisions of Rule 8 of the current collective bargaining with Amtrak.
Conductors and assistant conductors have rights to flow to other Amtrak zones as provided under the Amtrak agreement.
If those rights are not exercised within a five-day period beginning May 26, the Amtrak Zone CS-2 conductors and assistant conductors will become home terminal furloughed, as provided by Rule 9 of the Amtrak agreement. Conductors and assistant conductors under home terminal furlough who accept employment with TASI will continue to maintain seniority and employment rights with Amtrak until such time as recalled to service by Amtrak.
Amtrak conductors and assistant conductors working outside Zone CS-2 may submit an application to TASI for employment, but must be aware that if non-Zone CS-2 conductors or assistant conductors choose to leave active status with Amtrak for employment with TASI, Amtrak will not grant a leave of absence and those individuals will terminate their employment rights and seniority with Amtrak.
Before making a decision on whether to apply for employment with TASI, the UTU recommends you review the TASI/UTU implementing and working agreements, which are available for inspection by clicking on the following link:
This agreement is modeled after the current Amtrak collective bargaining agreement, with some modifications and enhancements to reflect the new operator and the current round of negotiations with Amtrak.
The agreement preserves and enhances current crew consist and productivity allowances and retains years of service for vacation entitlement of Amtrak employees who are employed by TASI. In addition, the agreement provides for health and welfare benefits equivalent to those in the current Amtrak contract.
The negotiating team consisted of GO 769 Chairperson Dirk Sampson and Vice General Chairperson Charlie Yura. They were assisted by UTU International Vice President John Previsich.
“Chairpersons Sampson and Yura are to be commended for their leadership role in securiing for their members a first right-of-hire with the new operator, while maintaining for all of TASI’s UTU-represented employees wages and working conditions that are equal to, or exceed, those currently in place on Amtrak,” Previsich said.
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.