On December 5, 2016, SMART Transportation Division issued a press release to announce that the unions participating in the Coordinated Bargaining Group (CBG) had requested that the National Mediation Board (NMB) mediate the group’s negotiations with the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC).
The decision to move the process forward with a request for mediation was made after our last negotiating session with the NCCC, when it became apparent that the prospect of reaching a voluntary agreement had grown significantly less likely, due in large part to the outcome of November’s elections. During negotiations, the organizations submitted a proposal that would provide the framework of an improved wage, work rule and benefit package that we believe our members have earned.
The carriers responded with an offer that was significantly less in every regard. Your negotiating team found the carriers’ demands for certain work rule changes unacceptable. In our opinion, these changes would compromise safety by creating a negative impact on rest and predictability. In addition, the carrier proposed unsatisfactory wage increases and dramatic cuts to our health care benefits, both of which were also unacceptable.
We have negotiated in good faith because we believe a voluntary agreement is in the best interests of our members and will continue to do so while in mediation. However, we stand firm in our conviction that our members deserve a better outcome than the carrier’s proposal and we will exhaust every avenue available to achieve a contract settlement with equitable compensation and benefit improvements that reflect the employees’ contributions to the carriers’ success. Additionally, we will not accept or propose a contract that adds to the already intolerable levels of unpredictability and rest deprivation that our members currently endure.
What’s next? The parties will engage in mediation as part of the dispute resolution process required by the Railway Labor Act. If a voluntary agreement is not reached in mediation, the process provides for a proffer of arbitration by the NMB, which, if refused by either participant, will then release the parties to engage in self-help (strike/lockout).
Moving through the Railway Labor Act to a strike is a long and arduous process, and requires that the parties exhaust every opportunity for settlement before a work stoppage disrupts the nation’s transportation system. However, the right to strike is a part of the process and the only person who can take away your right to strike is the President of the United States, who may intervene and appoint a Presidential Emergency Board.
In the event that we reach that point, I will be calling on all of our members to reach out to the White House and request that our newly elected President not interfere with our right to exercise self-help in our quest for a fair and equitable contract settlement.
To better explain the process that governs from this point forward, click on https://smart-union.org/td/washington/abridged-version-railway-labor-act/ to read an abridged version of a more detailed explanation of the Railway Labor Act.
President, Transportation Division
WASHINGTON — In the face of bipartisan get-tough-with-labor legislation introduced in the House and Senate, two of the remaining unions without national rail contracts agreed to a tentative settlement Dec. 1, and a third reached agreement with the carriers Dec. 1 to extend a cooling-off period into February.
With these agreements, the threat of a national railroad strike has been averted for now.
Previously, the Transportation Communications Union, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen and the various shopcrafts, including the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, reached tentative six-year agreements with the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC). The NCCC represents BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, Soo Line, Union Pacific and numerous smaller railroads in national handling.
UTU members earlier ratified a five-year national rail contract.
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the American Train Dispatchers Association agreed Dec. 1 to a tentative six-year agreement as recommended last month by Presidential Emergency Board No. 243. References to the UTU’s ratified national rail contract are extensive in the PEB recommendations.
While the BLET is in national handling for health care, it previously reached ratified wage agreements with BNSF, CSX and Norfolk Southern for lower wage increases than the UTU and other organizations, and continues separate talks on wages with Union Pacific.
Also, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes reached agreement with the NCCC to extend into February a cooling-off period that was to expire Dec. 5.
The BLET and train dispatchers’ tentative agreements, and the cooling-off period extension agreed to by the BMWE Dec. 1, came in the face of separate House and Senate resolutions.
The House resolution, H.J. 91 and introduced by House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), would have imposed as a final agreement on the BLET, the train dispatchers and the BMWE the PEB recommendations.
Separately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was set to introduce for immediate Senate vote an identical resolution (S.J. 31). After the BLET, train dispatchers’ and BMWE agreements were announced late Dec. 1, Sen. Reid said:
“I applaud all the stakeholders who worked to avert a work stoppage that would have hurt our nation’s economy just as the holiday season gets underway. It is Congress’ constitutional duty to ensure the unfettered flow of interstate commerce, and to protect the nation’s economic well-being. I am pleased with this outcome and congratulate all sides, including the White House and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, for their effort to find common ground that protects our economy and keeps it on-track.”
WASHINGTON – Senior House Republicans Nov. 29 said they would act to head off a railroad work stoppage if rail unions that so far have not settled with the carriers do not have a voluntary settlement in place by the end of a final 30-day cooling off period that expires Dec. 6.
The UTU has a ratified national rail agreement in place, while the Transportation Communications Union, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen and the various shopcrafts have reached tentative agreements. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes and the American Train Dispatchers Association have not reached a tentative agreement following recommendations for settlement by a Presidential Emergency Board.
(The BLET has ratified wage agreements in place with BNSF, CSX and Norfolk Southern — and is in separate wage negotiations with Union Pacific — but is in national handling for health care. The BMWE and the ATDA are in national handling for wage and health care agreements. Carriers in national handling include BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, Soo Line, Union Pacific and many smaller railroads. The carriers are represented by the National Carriers Conference Committee.)
If a national agreement between the BLET, the BMWE, the ATDA and the carriers is not reached by Dec. 6, the Railway Labor Act has run its course and the parties not yet in accord will be free to engage in self-help – a strike by labor or lockout by railroads.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said if tentative agreements involving the BLET, the BMWE and the ATDA are not reached by Dec. 6, they would act to prevent a work stoppage.
Typically, Congress intervenes with a back-to-work order almost immediately following a work stoppage, but there is nothing to prevent Congress from acting in advance to head off a strike by, for example, legislating the PEB recommendations or even its own settlement terms.
The three senior House Republicans told The Hill newspaper Nov. 29, “We are following with concern the situation involving our nation’s railways, and we are troubled by the possibility of a national railway strike that would jeopardize American jobs and cost our nation’s economy an estimated $2 billion per day.
“While our hope is that the parties involved will find common ground and resolve the situation without congressional involvement, the House is prepared to take legislative action in the days ahead to avert a job-destroying shutdown of our nation’s railroads, in the event such legislation proves necessary,” Boehner, Cantor and McCarthy said.
“A shutdown of our nation’s railways, which would harm our economy and endanger many American jobs, is unacceptable,” they said. “We are confident President Obama and the leaders of the Senate agree.”
The National Carriers Conference Committee earlier agreed to extend the cooling off period until at least February if all three of the remaining unions that have not yet settled agreed to the extension. The BLET declined Nov. 29 to agree to an extension of the cooling off period.
The nation’s largest shipper organization, the National Industrial Transportation League, as well as the Retail Federation of America and numerous other shippers have made pleas to Congress to head off a railroad work stoppage.
“For retailers, a strike during the busy holiday shopping season could be devastating,” the National Retail Federation said in a letter to Congress. “It is imperative that Congress recognize the severe economic harm threatened by the failure to reach agreement with the remaining rail unions and move quickly to prevent a rail strike that would prove devastating to both businesses and consumers.”
A 17 percent pay increase, retention of the $200 monthly cap on health care cost-sharing, FRA certification pay, a faster process for new hires to reach full pay rates, and no rollback of the January 2011 cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) highlight the new five-year national rail agreement negotiated between the UTU and the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC).
Railroads represented by the NCCC include BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific and many smaller railroads. Some 38,000 UTU members, including yardmasters, are covered by the tentative new agreement.
UTU District 1 general chairpersons voted unanimously June 2 to submit the tentative agreement to the membership for ratification under the craft autonomy provisions of the UTU constitution. The general chairpersons also voted unanimously to recommend ratification.
General chairpersons now have until June 20 to submit questions regarding details of the tentative agreement. The questions will be submitted to the NCCC for answers. The agreed-upon questions and answers will become part of the tentative contract submitted to the membership for ratification.
Additionally, forums will be scheduled nationwide at which UTU International officers will brief members on the contract’s details and respond to member questions. A ratification vote will later be scheduled.
“In the 41-year history of the UTU, this wage increase is the highest in excess of the current and projected consumer price index,” said UTU International President Mike Futhey. The Consumer Price Index, or CPI, is a barometer of prices for goods and services as measured by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Combined with the previous agreement this administration reached with the NCCC in January 2008, our members will realize a more than 40 percent increase in their base wages at the conclusion of this agreement, if it is ratified,” Futhey said. “A UTU member earning $80,000 in 2007 will be earning about $112,000 on the same job by 2015.”
The tentative agreement is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2010, and extends through Dec. 31, 2014. The contract provides that retroactive pay, commencing with the July 1, 2010, increase, will be made by the carriers within 60 days of the effective date of the final agreement.
The cap on employee health care cost contributions is a major provision of the tentative agreement. The $200 cap on monthly contributions compares with an average of more than $340 monthly paid by workers in other industries.
Without the negotiated $200 cap, and under provisions of current UTU agreements, UTU member health care cost contributions could soar to $355 monthly by 2015.
To retain the current $200 monthly cap, adjustments are made to copayments to reflect more economical ways to purchase medicines and reduce plan costs.
A new annual deductible is capped at $200 per individual ($400 per family), and an out-of-pocket maximum of $1,000 per individual ($2,000 per family) can be reached only if family medical costs exceed $40,000, which statistically affects only two percent of members.
The national rail agreement’s five-year entry rates provision has been amended to four years. Individuals under the five-year plan — as of May 1 and until the effective date of the final agreement — will receive a one-time $3,000 payment. Individuals on properties with modified service-scale rules will receive a one-time payment of $1,200. Individuals under entry-rate agreements that commence at 90 percent, and increase to 100 percent within two years, shall not receive a bonus payment.
Additionally, the tentative agreement provides that local agreements may be negotiated — not subject to binding arbitration if the sides cannot agree — for alternative compensation, compensated leave, compensation enhancement, and electronic bidding and bumping.
Yardmasters have essentially the same agreement, but with additional pay increases unique to their craft.
The UTU national negotiating team, in addition to Futhey, included Assistant President Arty Martin; National Legislative Director James Stem; UTU International Vice Presidents Robert Kerley and Delbert Strunk; and General Chairpersons John Lesniewski (CSX, GO 049), Pate King (NS, GO 680) and Doyle Turner (CSX, GO 347).
To read the tentative national agreements, select one of the links below:
To view a comparison of historic general wage increases to the Consumer Price Index, click here.
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.
To view the UTU Section 6 notice, click here.
To view the carriers’ Section 6 notice, click here.