Rails withdraw staffing & consolidation proposal

December 16, 2009

A month after the UTU filed a lawsuit in federal court to block a railroad demand to bargain over “staffing and consolidation,” the carriers have withdrawn that demand from their Railway Labor Act Section 6 notices.

In a letter to UTU International President Mike Futhey, the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), which represents most major railroads in national contract negotiations, said it “will withdraw, without prejudice, the proposal set forth in the paragraph entitled ‘Staffing and Consolidation'” in exchange for the UTU dismissing, “without prejudice,” its lawsuit.

“These undertakings,” said the NCCC, “are made in connection with each party’s desire to facilitate pursuit of a successful resolution of the 2010 bargaining round without further litigation and are without prejudice to their respective positions.”

The UTU interpreted the demand regarding “Staffing and Consolidation” as a renewed attempt by the carriers to seek one-person crew operations. A federal court had ruled in March 2006 — during the previous round of national negotiations — that the UTU had no obligation to bargain nationally over a carrier demand to eliminate conductor and brakemen positions on all through-freight trains.

The UTU position– then, and now — is that existing agreements relating to minimum train crew size are negotiated on a railroad-by-railroad basis through UTU general committees of adjustment, and any attempt by the carriers to change those agreements must be handled at the general committee level and not in so-called national handling where the major railroads coordinate their bargaining through the NCCC.

The agreement by the NCCC to withdraw its “Staffing and Consolidation” demand — in exchange for the UTU withdrawing its court action — followed a meeting between Futhey and the NCCC’s chief negotiator, Ken Gradia, on Dec. 8.

Said the NCCC in its letter to Futhey withdrawing the demand, “During our Dec. 8, 2009, initial conference on our respective Section 6 proposals for the 2010 bargaining round, we had a candid discussion about the parties’ respective concerns and goals.

“In the course of that exchange, we affirmed our shared conviction that voluntary agreements are always in the parties’ best interests and our joint desire to facilitate and encourage the exploration of opportunities for mutually beneficial solutions to each side’s needs without restraint. In particular, we discussed the benefits to both parties of eliminating potential impediments to successful negotiations where feasible,” said the NCCC.

To keep current on this round of national handling, click on the “National Rail Contract” link at www.utu.org.