Posts Tagged ‘health care’

Health resources available to members affected by Florence

Hurricane Florence has struck North and South Carolina and is causing destruction in the region. SMART TD and Your Track to Health want to remind members affected by Florence that resources are available to help recover from the storm.

The following health and wellness resources are available to those impacted by Hurricane Florence.

Behavioral health
An emotional support hotline is available, free of charge, regardless of behavioral health plan membership. It provides access to specially-trained mental health specialists.
United Behavioral Health/Optum: 1-866-342-6892 (toll free) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Prescription drugs
If you don’t have your medication(s) with you, prescriptions are available to you at any retail pharmacy. Simply show your Express Scripts ID card, or if your ID card is unavailable, call the number below. For members with home delivery orders in impacted areas, UPS shipments will be held at the member’s local post office for pickup if delivery to the home is not possible.
Accredo and Express Scripts: 1-800-842-0070 (toll free) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Vision
If you’ve lost, broken or damaged your eyewear, emergency (temporary) replacement glasses can be sent to you, at no cost, with overnight shipping (must call by 2:30 p.m. ET on weekdays for same-day processing). Or, if you prefer to order permanent replacement glasses or contacts, expedited shipping is available.
EyeMed: 1-866-652-0018 (toll free) Mon-Fri 7:30 a.m.-11 p.m. ET; Sat 8 a.m.-11 p.m. ET; Sun 11 a.m.-11 p.m. ET

Medical care and more:
Telemedicine services are available to any resident of an evacuation zone, regardless of health plan membership. Individuals can request a call from a doctor, free of charge, to handle non-emergency medical problems via specific contact information below.
Teladoc: 1-855-756-8708 (toll free) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or for more information visit https://www.teladoc.com/florence/

Free telephone access to registered nurses is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week regardless of health plan membership.
Railroad HEALTHLINK: 1-866-735-5685 (toll free) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Help finding care, behavioral health support, and assistance with finding available shelters and government resources, and other services are available through Aetna’s Resources for Living, regardless of health plan membership to people in Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Aetna: 1-833-327-2386 (toll free) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

For those who reside in areas where States of Emergency have been declared, waivers have been put in place for Medical Authorization Requirements, Claims Timely Filing, and Paying Out-of-Network Claims as In-Network.
Highmark/Blue Cross Blue Shield: 1-866-267-3320 (toll free) Mon-Fri 8 a.m.-8 p.m. ET

Free telephone access to registered nurses is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week regardless of health plan membership. Help finding health care services is available through the toll-free phone number, and in-network rates will be available even if members are not able to see an in-network provider.
UnitedHealthcare: 1-866-735-5685 (toll free) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Information is available to monitor and prepare for the storm. Experts are available to help: locate in-network providers in a new area, find facilities that will be able to provide temporary assistance, transfer medical records and prescriptions, get a short supply of medications if prescriptions have been lost, coordinate care between insurance company and medical providers, answer benefit and treatment questions and help with elderly parents.
HealthAdvocate: 1-866-799-2690 (toll free) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Dental:
Members affected by the hurricane who need care or other assistance can access Aetna.
Aetna Dental: 1-877-238-6200 (toll free) Mon-Fri 8 a.m.-6 p.m. ET

For more information, visit Your Track to Health at www.ytth.com.

Rail Healthcare Open Enrollment Online until Nov. 1

Railroad employees covered under National Railway Carriers/UTU Health and Welfare Plan or the Railroad Employees’ National Health and Welfare Plan were mailed a notification of the online open enrollment period that began Oct. 1, 2014, and ends Nov. 1, 2014. The information should be specific to the current enrollment for you and your eligible dependents.

The online enrollment capability provides the ability to view your personal information, add, delete and update dependent information, view enrollment materials, enroll in benefits for next year, and receive an immediate confirmation statement. There is no need to mail in a paper enrollment form. However, if you need assistance, have questions or require a paper enrollment kit, call Railroad Enrollment Services at (800) 753-2692.

The enrollment website can be found at https://www.yourtracktohealth.com (formerly known as the Railroad Information Depot).

You are encouraged to visit the online enrollment site and review all the information available. Use the log-in instructions at the end of this article to access and review your personal information and spend some time learning about the benefits and resources available on the site.

You will also be able to search medical provider networks.

It is required that covered dependent Social Security numbers (SSN) be provided to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Please supply the missing SSN on the Dependent Information screen.

If you are currently enrolled in the Health Flexible Spending Account, the election and yearly contribution will not rollover to the new plan year. You must enroll in your Health Flexible Spending Account every year.

  • Click “Login” located in the upper right corner of the screen.
  • If you have already registered, enter your username and password.
  • If you have not yet registered, select “New User?” at the bottom of the screen to complete your registration.

Once logged in, select the option to “Enroll Now for 2015,” located in the upper left corner of the screen.

Healthcare open enrollment online until Nov. 1

Railroad employees covered under National Railway Carriers/UTU Health and Welfare Plan or the Railroad Employees’ National Health and Welfare Plan were mailed a notification of the online open enrollment period that began Oct. 1, 2014, and ends Nov. 1, 2014. The information should be specific to the current enrollment for you and your eligible dependents.yourtracktohealth

The online enrollment capability provides the ability to view your personal information, add, delete and update dependent information, view enrollment materials, enroll in benefits for next year, and receive an immediate confirmation statement. There is no need to mail in a paper enrollment form. However, if you need assistance, have questions or require a paper enrollment kit, call Railroad Enrollment Services at (800) 753-2692.

The enrollment website can be found at https://www.yourtracktohealth.com (formerly known as the Railroad Information Depot).

You are encouraged to visit the online enrollment site and review all the information available. Use the log-in instructions at the end of this article to access and review your personal information and spend some time learning about the benefits and resources available on the site.

You will also be able to search medical provider networks.

It is required that covered dependent Social Security numbers (SSN) be provided to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Please supply the missing SSN on the Dependent Information screen.

If you are currently enrolled in the Health Flexible Spending Account, the election and yearly contribution will not rollover to the new plan year. You must enroll in your Health Flexible Spending Account every year.

  • Click “Login” located in the upper right corner of the screen.
  • If you have already registered, enter your username and password.
  • If you have not yet registered, select “New User?” at the bottom of the screen to complete your registration.

Once logged in, select the option to “Enroll Now for 2015,” located in the upper left corner of the screen.

 

New website is gateway to rail health benefits

tracktohealth_webA new and improved site – www.yourtracktohealth.com – replaces the previous Railroad Information Depot (www.rrinfodepot.com).

Bookmark the new website address for easy future access: www.yourtracktohealth.com.

The new yourtracktohealth.com is your online gateway to information, tools and resources about your health and welfare benefits to help you:

  • Explore your benefits
  • Enroll in and manage your coverage
  • Improve your health
  • Plan your retirement

Be sure to check out the new video library, “Question of the Week,” and the featured monthly health topic when you’re on the site.

More enhancements are coming soon.

There will be several new features added to the site in the coming months that will include:

  • Secure sign-on: allows eligible employees and their dependents who are enrolled in the health and welfare benefits program to securely access and manage personal benefits information online.
  • An email registration and subscription center: allows eligible employees and their dependents to opt-in to receive important benefits, enrollment and health/wellness information, alerts and updates via email. The subscription center is where you can update and manage your email communications preferences.

Stay tuned for future enhancement announcements and benefits communications on www.yourtracktohealth.com.

(This site contains information for railroad employees and/or their eligible dependents covered in the national railroad medical, prescription drug, dental, vision, behavioral health and life insurance benefits plans. If you and/or your dependents are not covered under these plans, including Amtrak employees, you should continue to seek information about your health care benefits from your employer.)

Affordable Care Act eliminates many copays

UTU members with questions on how the Affordable Care Act will affect them and their families should visit the websites of their health care insurance carriers.

For UTU members covered under the national railroad medical, prescription drug, dental, vision, and life insurance benefits plans, links to your health insurance providers’ websites can be found at http://www.utu.org/ by clicking on the “Health Care” link at the top of the home page.

In addition to accessing the UTU health care web pages for information, also view the Railroad Information Depot, accessible at:

https://www.rrinfodepot.com/

Following is general information on the Affordable Care Act:

* Those with health care insurance will continue to be covered under those plans.

* Those with health care insurance no longer will pay out-of-pocket for certain preventive care services when they are rendered by a network provider. The purpose is to promote wellness and reduce the high cost of treating and managing disease. For a list of preventive service covered, use the following link:

www.healthcare.gov/law/about/provisions/services/lists.html

This provision could prove a significant cost saver for UTU members covered by the national railroad health care plan because copays will be eliminated for many preventive health care services.

“When we entered the most recent round of negotiations with the carriers, our strategy was to hold the monthly cost sharing premium under $200 — rather than allow it to escalate to $300 or more — in exchange for somewhat higher copays,” said UTU International President Mike Futhey. “The Affordable Care Act now eliminates many of those copays. Our winning strategy will prove very beneficial to our members, who now will save out-of-pocket for many health care services while still having one of the lowest cost-sharing premiums in the public and private sectors.”

Additionally:

* Employer plans will be required to provide uniform summaries of benefits and coverage to participants.

* The Medicare hospital insurance tax rate of 1.45 percent per paycheck remains unchanged for those earning less than $200,000 annually ($250,000 for married couples filing jointly). The tax rate will be raised only for those with higher incomes.

* The Affordable Care Act ensures your right to appeal health insurance plan decisions — to ask that your plan reconsider its decision to deny payment for a service or treatment.

* It also contains a new Patient’s Bill of Rights, which can be accessed at the following website:

www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2010/06/aca-new-patients-bill-of-rights.html
.
* Dependents will remain covered by their parents’ health care plans until age 26.

* Insurance companies no longer may deny health care due to pre-existing conditions or cancel coverage for people who become sick.

* No longer are there lifetime dollar limits on health care benefits.

* Retirees covered by Medicare already have saved $3.7 billion on prescription drugs in the Part D “donut hole” since the law was enacted, and will continue to save on prescriptions as the “donut hole” closes over the next eight years.

As more information becomes available on how the Affordable Care Act affects UTU members and their families, it will be reported at http://www.utu.org/ and in the UTU News.

One-stop web address for rail health care info

Railroad employees and/or their eligible dependents covered under the national railroad medical, prescription drug, dental, vision, and life insurance benefits plans may now find information about those benefits on a single web page.

The Railroad Information Depot webpage address is www.rrinfodepot.com 

Note that this web site pertains only to the nationally negotiated railroad health and welfare plans. If you and/or your eligible dependents are not covered by those benefits plans – and this includes Amtrak employees – you should continue to seek information about your health care benefits from your employer.

Each of the benefits administrators for rail employee health care insurance negotiated under the national railroad medical, prescription drug, dental, vision, and life insurance benefits plans hosts a home page at the Railroad Information Depot. The providers include Aetna, Highmark, MetLife, Medco, vsp, and United Healthcare.

By logging on to www.rrinfodepot.com, rail employees will find a central point of access for information about health care benefits, regardless of which benefits administrator provides coverage.

Here are some of the categories that will be available at the new website:

* Information on completing a health risk assessment to help you stop smoking, lose weight or become a happier person.

* Tips on reducing risks of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases that are largely preventable.

* Alerts and important dates regarding annual open enrollment periods.

* Current topics of interest and news on specific health issues.

* On-line access to each of the summary plan descriptions.

* Information on medical care, mental health, substance abuse, disease management, wellness programs, pharmacy, dental care, life insurance, vision care, and sickness benefits – regardless of the health care benefits administrator.

* Links to network providers, helpful tools and educational materials, contact information, and the various forms necessary for filing for benefits.

* A dedicated retirement section providing information and links to assist you in transitioning into retirement.

* Railroad Enrollment Services information to ensure you understand who is eligible for coverage under your plan and the documentation required.

Once at the website, you will be able to navigate over a topic to read more about what it offers; and, if it’s what you are looking for, you will need only to click on the topic to find more in-depth information.

Again, the website is:

www.rrinfodepot.com

Many will see $2 reduction in health care contribution

Some 38,000 UTU members covered under the national rail contract will see a $2 reduction in their monthly health care contribution effective July 1 and continuing through June 30, 2016.

Health care insurance savings, in part made possible by the 2011 ratified national rail agreement, permitted the UTU and other rail labor organizations to seek the monthly reduction in the member contribution.

The national rail contract, ratified overwhelmingly by members last summer, included a negotiated cap on member contributions, putting that cap at $200 monthly, while carriers pay more than $1,401 on behalf of each employee covered under the national rail contract. Without the negotiated cap on member contributions, the monthly cost to members for health care insurance could escalate to $355 by the end of the agreement period.

The carriers’ health care savings, expected to be realized as a result of the 2011 national rail contract, permitted the $200 cap to be reduced to $198 effective July 1, and that lower $198 monthly cap will continue in force through June 30, 2016.

That $198 cap, and its length of time in force, is significant, as federal workers, for example, already pay more than $430 monthly for their family health care plan, and that cost is expected to rise in future years as health care costs generally continue a march upward.

The 2011 national rail contract also caps the family deductible at $400 annually, and the annual out-of-pocket maximum at $2,000, compared with a $700 maximum family deductible for federal workers and a $5,000 annual out-of-pocket maximum for federal workers.

Many in the private sector face even higher health care costs, while more than 40 million Americans have no health care insurance.

 

UTU pact sweet as health care premiums soar

The UTU’s ratified national rail contract – locking in for six years a $200 monthly health care insurance premium — is looking even more attractive following a Kaiser Family Foundation study showing health care costs and health care premiums are rocketing into space.

Nationally, the average monthly premium for family health care insurance through an employer reached $1,256 in 2011, according to the study– and even higher monthly premiums are forecast in the years ahead.

Although employers generally pay a significant portion of those premiums, the employee share for private sector and federal workers is anywhere from almost double to more than double what is paid by rail workers under the recently ratified UTU national rail contract.

It is expected that most private-sector and government employees will be paying considerably more in health care insurance premiums in the years ahead, while those covered by the UTU national rail contract pay not a penny more for coverage through mid-2016. Moreover, the UTU national rail contract includes improvements in a health care plan already considered one of the most comprehensive in America.

The Kaiser Family Foundation study found that health care insurance premiums have doubled over the past 10 years, outstripping, for most Americans, the growth in wages. 

National Rail Contract: Health care myths

National Rail Contract; Rail Contract; Tentative Agreement; ContractThe International has received questions regarding the health care provisions contained in the National Rail Contract.

The health care insurance plan provided by the National Rail Contract already provides one of the best benefits packages available – and the new contract provides enhancements in addition to the deductible and co-insurance changes.

Some members have focused on what they consider to be the “cons” of the new provisions. No collectively bargained contract delivers everything each side would like. In fact, the “pros” regarding health care in the National Rail Contract vastly outnumber and outweigh the “cons.”

Pros:

* Employee health care contribution frozen at $200 per month through July 1, 2016.

* Reduction in co-pay for use of urgent care centers to $20.

* Reduction in co-pay for use of convenient care clinics to $10.

* Enhanced benefit for using “Centers of Excellence” for certain procedures.

* Annual deductible and co-insurance based on insurance company allowed charges and not the actual charges submitted by the in-network physician or hospital.

* 100 percent benefits on satisfying the annual out-of-pocket maximum.

* Radiology management procedures to be implemented to reduce redundant or unnecessary tests adding to health care costs with no penalty to the member if the required authorization is not obtained by the physician.

* Reduction in the cost of generic medication to $5 at both retail and mail service.

* Personalized Medicine to be established allowing for the proper medication at the proper dose the first time for specified illnesses.

* Pharmacist contact with physician to assure you are receiving proper medication at the most affordable price to you and the plan.

* You and your physician will have the final decision on medications.

Cons:

* Establishment of annual deductibles and co-insurance for in-network services.

*Increase in the co-pay for brand name medications.

* Emergency room co-pay increased to $75.

To further assist in understanding the health care provisions in the National Rail Contract, here is a response to some of the myths raised:

MYTH: I will now have to pay $50 for cotton balls in the hospital under this proposal.

FACT: The annual deductible and 5 percent co-insurance you pay is on the allowed charges that the insurance company has negotiated with your provider. For example, the doctor charges $200 for a procedure and the allowed charge by the insurance company is $65. You would only pay $65 toward the annual deductible. If the annual deductible has already been satisfied, you pay only $3.25 as the 5 percent co-insurance up to a maximum of $1,000.

MYTH: Medco will dictate what drugs I will receive regardless of what my doctor prescribes.

FACT: Medco pharmacists will contact your doctor to discuss the medication prescribed and suggest alternative medications that can save you money without jeopardizing your health. The final decision on medications is made by you and your physician.

MYTH: Railroads are showing record profits and now is the time to get higher general wage increases and not give up anything in return. We must stand firm and fight. This is a bad deal.

FACT: The nation is facing the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Legislators at all levels of government are imposing wage and benefit concessions on union and non-union employees and passing laws that eliminate collective bargaining rights. The situation in this round of bargaining is nearly identical to that in 1996 when Arbitration Board No. 559 settled the UTU National Agreement. That arbitration panel ruled that the total economic picture is controlling, not just the railroads’ current economic situation at the time. (This decision is reprinted, below, in its entirety.)

The National Rail Contract provides a compounded general wage increase of 18.24 percent – and more than 20 percent when factoring in the certification pay. THIS IS A GOOD DEAL!

Arbitration Board No. 559 Decision from 1996:

BEFORE THE ARBITRATION BOARD Constituted Pursuant to a National Mediation Board Arbitration Agreement Made and Entered Into On April 16, 1996 By and Between CERTAIN CARRIERS REPRESENTED BY THE NATIONAL CARRIERS’ CONFERENCE COMMITTEE Arbitration Board and No. 559 CERTAIN OF THEIR EMPLOYEES National Mediation REPRESENTED BY THE UNITED Board TRANSPORTATION UNION (National Mediation Board Case Nos. A—12709, A—12710, A—1271l, A—12712 and A—12713)
AWARD
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

May 8, 1996

This award is made in conformance with the Railway Labor Act
pursuant to a voluntary arbitration agreement executed by certain
carriers represented by the National Carriers’ Conference Committee
(Carriers) and the employees of these Carriers represented by the
United Transportation Union (UTU). That Agreement was executed on
April 16, 1996, under the auspices of the Chairwoman of the
National Mediation Board. A copy of the Arbitration Agreement is
attached as Appendix “A.”

John B. Criswell, Robert 0. Harris, and Preston J. Moore were
duly selected as members of the arbitration board. John Criswell
was appointed to serve as Chairman of this Board. Such designa-
tions and appointment were made in accordance with the Railway
Labor Act and the terms of the parties’ Arbitration Agreement.

Background

The UTU represents approximately 40,000 conductors,
brakemen, switchmen, engine service personnel and yardmasters, or
about 27% of the total number of employees represented in this
round of national bargaining involving the Nation’s freight
railroads.

The railroad companies in this dispute are represented by
the National Carriers’ Conference Committee.

On November 1, 1994, the NCCC, in accordance with Section
6 of the Railway Labor Act, served notice on the UTU of their
demands for changes in the collective bargaining agreements. The
UTU responded with their notices beginning in mid-November, 1994,
and continuing thereafter for some time.

The first formal meetings occurred on December 14—15,
1994. After several months of negotiations, both parties applied
to the NNB for its mediatory services, the tJTU on March 3, 1995,
and the Carriers on March 10, 1995. The applications were docketed
as NNB Case Nos. A—12709, A—l2710, A—12711, A—12712, and A—12713.

Staff mediator Samuel J. Cognata was initially assigned
to mediate this dispute. NNB Chairwoman Magdalena Jacobsen
ultimately joined the mediation efforts. They met with the parties
on numerous occasions throughout the following year. On December
1, 1995, after a great deal of hard and intensive negotiations, the
Carriers and the UTtJ reached an agreement (December 1995 Agree-
ment).

The December 1995 Agreement was placed before the
appropriate UTU constituencies for approval. The Agreement was
approved by a practically unanimous vote of the General Chairmen.
However, when submitted to the membership, the agreement was
rejected.

In view of the fact that both parties use the December
1995 Agreement as their departure point, albeit in different
directions, a brief description of that agreement seems appropri-
ate.

The term of the December 1995 Agreement covers the 5 year
period beginning January 1, 1995 and ending December 31, 1999.
Wage adjustments and a guaranteed COLPJ generate a minimum increase
of 14.3% over that period. All the wage adjustments were applica-
ble to overmiles, unlike the past two national agreements. A
continuing COLA at the end of the agreement, similar to the last
round, also was included. The pact provides for periodic health
and welfare offsets similar to the previous round’s agreement
except that the amount offset is cumulative from year to year, as
opposed to the one shot annual offset in the last agreement.

Insofar as fringe benefits are concerned, the December
1995 Agreement essentially called for no change in the national
health benefits plan, deferred improvements in the national dental
plan and established, in 1999, a national vision plan. While
benefits under the health plan were not changed, eligibility for
benefits was tightened. Similarly, vacation eligibility service
requirements were raised. Several vacation plan improvements were
agreed to as well.

As to rules changes, UTU obtained certain flowback rights
for engine service personnel, enhanced employment opportunities in
certain line sale transactions, greater work opportunities for
employees on terminal companies, a seniority accumulation require-
ment, and an opportunity tied to promotion to expedite the rate
progression timetable. In addition to a comprehensive moratorium,
as provided in the previous round, the Carriers obtained a
displacement rule change that accelerated certain employee mark up
obligations upon returning to work, and an enhanced customer
service rule that offered the promise of tailoring rail service to
specific customer needs. Finally, the parties agreed to establish
a Wage and Rules Panel 2000 which would study and make recommenda-
tions concerning various pay and work rules.

On April 15, 1996, the NNB, in accordance with Section 5,
First, of the Railway Labor Act, offered the parties the opportuni-
ty to submit their dispute to arbitration. The UTU accepted the
NNB’s proffer of arbitration on April 15, 1996, and the Carriers
accepted it later on the same date. On April 16, 1996, the parties
executed an Arbitration Agreement pursuant to which this Board was
created.

The Board commenced hearings on April 30, 1996. The
hearings continued on May 1 and 2, 1996. The hearings were held in
Washington, D.C. The parties were given full opportunity to
present positions, oral testimony, and documentary evidence. The
transcript of the proceeding consists of 241 pages. The tJTU
submitted statements of position on the issues that included four
volumes of supporting exhibits and two addendums. The Carriers
submitted 18 exhibits. The parties’ collective submissions to this
Board amounted to some six feet of paper.

After a full consideration of the evidence and arguments
of the parties and upon the entire record, the Arbitration Board
makes the following findings and Award.

DISCUSSION AND FINDINGS OF THE BOARD

The Board approaches its task mindful of the extraordi-
nary set of circumstances that makes its determinations so
critically important. Every round of bargaining in the rail
industry and every dispute that comprises a round affects the vital
interests of many groups. Here, however, in addition to the
traditional considerations, there are other important factors.

As we look to the immediate past, we are reminded that rail labor and
management are recovering from a round of substantial acrimony that
required Congressional imposition of settlements for most of the
rail unions, including the tJTU. As we look ahead, we recognize
that there is no formal agreement yet in place with respect to this
round of national bargaining (although one agreement is currently
out for ratification). And, finally, as we focus on this particu-
lar dispute, we observe an unprecedented set of negotiations:
informal as well as formal talks, leadership changes, and not the
least, two rejected agreements.

Thus, the impact of this Award and its obvious effect on
those that are formally parties to the proceedings, and those that
are not, require the exercise of the greatest of care in fashioning
our conclusions. We begin by assessing the positions advanced by
the parties.

A. The UTU Position

The UTU has reviewed the bargaining history and the
ratification results, and concluded that what is needed is more in
the way of money and less in the way of rules relief. Rather than
14.3% (compounded) in general wage increases and 7.5% in lump sums
as called for in the December 1995 Agreement, the UTU now says that
the agreement is the “springboard” and the employees it represents
should receive 21% (non—compounded) over three years in general
wage increases. As to rules, the reverse psychology applies.

While the December 1995 Agreement provided relief with respect to
displacement, customer service adjustments, and eligibility
requirements for vacation, dental, and health and welfare benefits,
the tJTU proposes that all those items be dropped, including the
commitment to establish a National Panel to consider comprehensive
restructuring of the entire pay and rule system.

The justification for these revisions is twofold, (1)
that is what it will take to satisfy the needs of the members, and
(2) the Carriers’ record profits permit greater sharing with UTU
employees.

The organization might be right as to what its members
want. Whether it is right to give them that is another question.
We believe it is not enough to simply claim “more” and be rewarded
with more. Good faith bargaining is put at risk by rewarding
employees with greater gains for simply saying “no.” The automatic
rejection of agreements reached by experienced and elected
organization representatives without further justification is a
destructive practice that cannot be tolerated. We may disagree
with the Carriers’ remedy in these circumstances, but we do agree
with the Carriers that a rejection of an agreement without any
persuasive explanation is unacceptable.

The organization responds by saying that the justifica-
tion for greater increase lies in the record profits reaped by the
industry over the last several years, especially last year. The
organization’s witness analyzes the financial reports and the
economic data and advises that the fortunes of the industry have
never been better: net income is at a record high; earnings are up
all over; operating ratios continue to fall; earnings per share are
escalating; return on investment could not be better; etc.

On the other hand, the Carriers presented an imposing
array of figures as well, all warning that whatever financial gains
have occurred, and they have occurred, they have been modest at
best. They point out that even with the so—called “success,” the
industry lags behind levels of profitability routinely found
elsewhere. Furthermore, competition from trucks and other modes
continues to exert incredible pressure on prices, capital demands
soar unrelentingly, etc.

We think that before jumping into this thicket, we are
better off to step back and ask ourselves, what will the exercise
gain us? We do not think that “bigness” alone or profits by
themselves are persuasive reasons for recommending wage increases.
If that were so, the biggest company in the country should have the
highest wage rates for its employees. But that is not the case,
and it is not the case because it makes no sense.

That is not to say that where employees’ wages are
suppressed for a period of time, due in part to poor financial
returns, a union cannot argue for wage hikes when financial good
health returns. But, insofar as the rail industry is concerned,
there is no such argument available. The facts are to the
contrary. Rail employees enjoy a significant advantage over
employees in other industries. That conclusion stands whether one
analyzes wage trends, wage levels, or total compensation, compares
competitors such as truck, other transportation modes, or industry
generally. The figures are in the record, and they are unassail-
able. As to employees represented by the UTU, as opposed to
railroad represented employees generally, the conclusions are
identical. The only difference is that the differences are
greater.

Thus, in our view, the union’s claim that current profit
levels justify greater wage increases does not fly.

B. The Carriers’ Position

Unsurprisingly, the Carriers’ analysis of the post
ratification tea leaves is just the opposite. Simply said, the
Carriers urge more work rules relief and less money. The support-
ing arguments, broadly stated, are that the rejection of the
December 1995 Agreement and the organization’s subsequent actions
demand no less than a merits analysis of all issues. Compromise
and delay via referral to a Wage and Rules Panel are no longer
tolerable. And as to the merits, the Carriers are entitled to
significant relief on a large number of pay and work rules and
entitled to that relief immediately. Insofar as wages are
concerned, the union should accept less than the December 1995
Agreement for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that
delayed implementation of the Carriers’ quid — rules relief,
justifies diminishment of the union’s quo — the wage increases.
To do otherwise, argue the Carriers, is to reward the
organization and its membership for failing to live up to its
responsibilities. The Carriers argue that this practice must be
stopped, that the membership be taught a lesson, and the only way
to have the message understood is to hit them where it hurts —— in
the pocketbook.

The Carriers’ message has some appeal. After all,
history is filled with Commission Reports that analyzed pay and
work rules and recommended substantial change. Yet, the results
often were to toss the analysis into the trash bin or to make only
the most modest adjustments. Similarly, the Carriers’ concern with
deterioration of the process is a real one and as we commented
earlier, one that must be addressed. However, as we spell out in
more detail later, our difficulty with the Carriers’ recommenda-
tions is that they are not warranted in these circumstances. That
is harmful in itself. It is even worse at this point with a BLE
agreement out for ratification. And prospects for other agreements
would be undermined as well.

C. The Board’s Award

Having rejected the positions advanced by the parties, we
come to where our instincts have told us all along we should be.
That is, to endorse in substance the parties’ December 1995
Agreement. We do so for a number of reasons.

We first look at the agreement itself and ask ourselves
whether it is a fair and reasonable settlement. Both on an overall
basis and as to important key provisions. We think this test is
met in every respect. It is fair and reasonable. it provides
satisfactory wage increases, a mixture of general wage increases
and lump sums, that will exceed that received by most American
workers and satisfies legitimate expectations. it follows as well
a generous last year increase in the 1991 Implementing Agreement of
a 4% July 1, 1994 general wage increase and a 2% January 1, 1995
lump sum adjustment. It also addresses certain key needs identi-
fied by the union, such as flow back rights, greater work opportu-
nities for employees confined to rosters of terminal companies, and
an accelerated entry rate schedule.

For the Carriers, wages are generous but not excessive.
Rules relief is provided in an immediate sense by revisions in the
displacement obligations imposed on employees returning to work and
the modest increases in eligibility requirements for the health and
dental plans, as well as vacation benefits.

Employees gain as well through maintenance of a generous
health benefits program with the most modest of employee cost
sharing arrangements. A new vision plan as well as an expanded
dental program provide a generous benefits package.

In the long run, further improvements may come from the
Wage and Rules Panel. The parties had committed themselves to a
serious and comprehensive analysis of pay and work rules, and we
are persuaded to take them at their word.

Having concluded that the agreement is fair and reason-
able insofar as the parties are concerned, but recognizing the
precedent the agreement carries with respect to the remaining rail
negotiations, we must ask ourselves whether the agreement is fair
and reasonable in that context. We think so. We have looked at
the agreement in terms of how it compares with respect to industry
generally, not just with UTU employees. The answer is the same.
It does compare favorably.

In fact, there is no other answer. In light of the BLE
ratification effort, we find that to recommend more or less would
be destabilizing at best and potentially destructive to this entire
round of bargaining. In addition, portions of this agreement
developed in discussions with other operating and non—operating
groups and found their way into the December 1995 Agreement. In
short, we find the agreement reached by the parties to be fair and
reasonable in all respects. Given that, we must respect what the
parties have done and endorse the December 1995 Agreement. Nothing
has changed since the agreement was made except for the non-
ratification. There is no warrant for less favorable treatment of
employees because of their vote. It is enough to adopt the same
terms their leaders found acceptable.

Secondly, there are precedents within this industry,
including this organization. We cite several as examples of the
many. Only a decade ago the UTU rejected in its ratification
process a tentative national rail agreement. At that time, the
fireman—manning issue was identified as the offending provision.
The dispute was submitted to an Emergency Board, as opposed to an
Arbitration Board. The Emergency Board reaffirmed the parties’
tentative agreement with little in the way of change.

An even more recent industry precedent is Arbitration
Board Award No. 458. That Board endorsed a tentative agreement
reached in national negotiations between the Brotherhood of
Locomotive Engineers and the NCCC. There, after reviewing all the
arguments the BLE advanced as to why the rejected agreement should
be substantially revised, the Board was not persuaded to stray from
the parties own efforts. In summarizing, it said:

“In short, the realities that confront this
Board permit no other conclusion.” (Arbitra-
tion Board No. 458, Award, p.8)

Although that answer applies here as well, the Board does
not stop its analysis here. Rather, the Board also grounds its
opinion on some very important considerations it believes are vital
if collective bargaining in this industry is to prosper. As
contrasted to our other reasons, it is more ephemeral but no less
important.

It originates in the observations we noted as to the
efforts both parties have made to overcome the bitterness of the
last round and to restore vigor to the collective bargaining
process. It can truly be said that this round began not with the
service of formal notices in November, 1994, but more than a year
before that date when informal talks first began.

This effort not only survived leadership changes but was
nourished by them. The new UTU team brought with it a determina-
tion to depart from the easy but unproductive ways so often taken
in the past of letting others resolve the issues and take the
blame. The agreement of the parties contains numerous examples of
subjects being addressed and solutions fashioned. It contains as
well a new—found commitment to continue this effort through the
Wage and Rules Panel.

We marvel at the remarkable turnaround this revitaliza—
tion has had already on the policy making body of the UTU -— its
General Chairmen. We contrast their response to the 1994 Denver
Agreement with the 1995 December Agreement. A change of that
magnitude -— from almost complete opposition to practically
unanimous support —- is not in our view solely attributable to the
extra dollars or other adjustments. It signifies something far
more fundamental.

We accept the fact that there are those who would point
to the membership rejection and the Carriers’ clamor for immediate
and comprehensive rules relief as more accurate predictors of
future behavior. That may be the case. There have to be serious
concerns when the industry significantly improves its profitability
and the union membership rejects a contract that both provides wage
increases above the national norm and preserves their work rules.
And concerns as to inequities are bound to rise when executive
compensation soars, profits multiply, but employment levels plummet
and legitimate needs of workers are ignored.

While that case can be made, we do not believe it will
happen here. We do not share the view that this is a permanent
fork in the road leading to labor disarray. We think that the rank
and file is capable of understanding the leadership’s determination
to solve the problems of the workplace, not leave it to others. We
do not dismiss lightly our concerns with membership rejection
generally. Those concerns become acute here in view of the UTU
leadership’s success in the negotiations and preparations for
ratification.

We are confident that both parties are determined to
address their problems and reach solutions on their own. The
tentative agreement is an example of that. We believe the parties’
creation needs nurturing, not second guessing. We cite with
approval comments of some distinguished colleagues in a recent
airline interest arbitration case. In responding to a position
advanced by one party, the Board stated:

“Interest arbitration, bound as it is to
existing norms, is an inherently conservative
process. Rarely will a party be able to
convince an interest arbitrator to make major
‘innovative’ changes in the status quo, re-
gardless of their merit.” (American Airlines
and APFA, Interest Arbitration Award, October
10, 1995, pp. 54—55)

This Board, too, believes that these issues should be
negotiated by the parties. And, here, that is the case. The
parties worked hard and successfully. They forged an agreement.
They had the courage to make the lead settlement. They reached an
agreement expeditiously, some three months after the current UTU
leadership took office. And they had the determination to make an
agreement without government intervention. They are entitled to
their successes.

AWARD

1. The request of the Carriers dated November 1, 1994, a
copy of which is affixed to the Arbitration Agreement as Exhibit B
and all other proposals advanced during mediation or before this
Board, are denied in their entirety except as otherwise provided in
paragraph 3.

2. The request of the United Transportation Union dated on
or after November 16, 1994, a representative copy of which is
affixed to the Arbitration Agreement as Exhibit C, and all other
proposals advanced during mediation or before this Board, are
denied in their entirety except as otherwise provided in paragraph
3.

3. The tentative 1995 agreement, understandings, and
attached letters, with certain modifications that are due to the
passage of time and the issuance of this decision, are confirmed as
our Award. A copy of such agreement and such letters that include
these changes is affixed hereto as Appendix D and shall constitute
in its entirety this Board’s Award. This Board hereby finds that
its Award constitutes a full and complete response to the specific
questions submitted to it.

4. The Award shall become effective on the date issued and
shall remain in effect in accordance with its terms until changed
pursuant to the provisions of the Railway Labor Act.

5. The Award shall be final and conclusive upon the parties
to the Arbitration Agreement as to the facts determined by the
Award and as to the merits of the controversy decided. The Award
shall be applied in the same manner as if reached through agreement
and signed in the parties’ customary manner.

Issued at a meeting of the Arbitration Board on May 8, 1996.

Planning to retire? We have some answers

If you are planning to retire in the coming months, you are sure to have concerns and many more questions.

Understanding retirement benefits, Medicare and Medigap – and, especially, assuring you obtain all you are entitled to – is no simple task. There is help, however, and the UTU can help you.

Many of your pre-retirement questions can be answered at the UTU Internet home page, at www.utu.org by clicking on “UTU Alumni Association” (located along the top under “About UTU”).

See, for example, the article headlined, “Preparing for Your Retirement,” which provides advice on tasks to consider in the months before your actual retirement. The topics include, “Money and health,” “Medicare and more,” “Pension plans,” “Investment income,” “Monthly income,” information for UTUIA policy holders, and advice on documents you will need to complete or obtain before applying for certain retirement benefits.

Also provided are contact information – phone numbers and Web addresses – where additional retirement information (such as veteran’s benefits for surviving spouses) may be obtained.

A new addition to that the Alumni Association page is a link to UnitedHealthcare’s “Retirement Made Easy Kit,” crafted for railroaders about to retire.

For Bus and Aviation Department members, there is a link for Social Security information.

Don’t overlook information on joining the UTU Alumni Association, which will keep you in touch with other UTU retirees and continuing news about the UTU, your past employer and current events affecting airlines, the motorcoach industry and railroads.

Those nearing retirement also should click on the “Health Care” link in the grey tile area at the top of the UTU homepage at www.utu.org. You will find there additional links to information on health care benefits, disabilities and Medicare prescription drug benefits.

Advance planning is an important first step toward assuring smooth sailing toward a successful and enjoyable retirement.

Reminder: COBRA subsidy extended

As reported in mid-April, the eligibility period for the COBRA subsidy was extended by Congress through May 31.

COBRA is a federal program that permits those who lose their jobs and employer-provided health care to retain their health care through out-of-pocket payments equivalent to what they and the employer previously were paying. The subsidy helps bridge the financial gap.

If a person qualifies for the reduced COBRA premium rate, they would be responsible for payment of only 35 percent of the current COBRA monthly premium for a period of between 12 and 15 months. All other provisions of the prior legislation remain the same.

If you have further questions on the COBRA subsidy extension, you may contact UnitedHealthcare at (800) 842-5252.