On June 15 and 16, 2021, the simmering dispute between the SMART Transportation Division and carriers over crew consist finally reached arbitration before neutral party John LaRocca in Sacramento, Calif.
Class I railroads BNSF, UP, NS and KCS initiated a claim in October 2019, just prior to the opening of the current round of national contract handling, that asserted the moratorium provisions of various local agreements no longer barred the service of a Section 6 notice regarding the topic of crew consist.
At the arbitration, 13 SMART-TD General Committees presented their arguments against the National Railroad Labor Conference (NRLC), which represented the railroads involved.
The arbitration hearing was a result of a long court battle in which it was determined that the question of whether the moratorium language in the various agreements barred serving a notice was a “minor dispute” within the meaning of the Railway Labor Act and would have to be arbitrated.
The moratoriums were a result of negotiations in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the parties involved decided to lay to rest negotiations over crew consist until the last covered employee voluntarily separated. Despite the fact that the event has not occurred, the carriers have taken the position that the language of the moratoriums cannot be read to now bar negotiation over crew consist.
The railroads are seeking to bypass the agreed-upon wait time that bars such negotiation and to seek crew size changes now. SMART-TD argued that the language and intent of the moratoriums clearly bars any negotiation on crew consist until the last person standing is gone.
The arbitration was the largest conducted by the union in decades and was presented by a combined team of the SMART-TD International, SMART-TD Legal Department and multiple General Committees. A decision on the issue is expected by September 2021.
A ruling by LaRocca in favor of SMART-TD would leave current crew-consist agreements closed from negotiations until the expiration of the moratoriums. A ruling by LaRocca in favor of the carriers would open these agreements up for negotiation on the respective properties as the current round of national contract discussions continues.