The following update on Amtrak negotiations is from UTU General Chairperson Roger Lenfest (GO 769), who is the UTU lead negotiator. The UTU International is not participating in the talks. Under the UTU’s guarantee of craft autonomy, the International participates in on-property negotiations only when requested to do so by general chairpersons.

The existing UTU agreement with Amtrak remains in force until amendments are concluded under provisions of the Railway Labor Act.  

According to Lenfest:

“Here are some of the reasons why we have not yet reached a settlement.

“So far, none of the crafts who have settled have come close to a net 3 percent increase in pay for their members any year for the next five years. In fact, in the last three years of those agreements, the single-employee contribution to health and welfare could be $230 per month.

“On the other hand, there are several important issues specific to our craft that we are serious about resolving. Certification and the attendant pay for certification is important, as is the issue of the treatment of single-day vacations.

“Furthermore, the meal allowance for conductors who are required by Amtrak to be away from home must be addressed.

“Another important issue to our members is to achieve an adequate amount of time-off for those members who work for long hours.

“In the meantime, there are several economic reports coming in that inflation and increased costs for fuel and groceries are right around the corner.

“It is our goal to reach a reasonable and honorable settlement with Amtrak in the near term; however, we must be vigilant that any settlement is equitable and that we meet our responsibility to place our members in a better economic situation.

“Presently, we are not the only major craft negotiating with Amtrak. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes have yet to reach a settlement with Amtrak.

“In fact, the BMWE recently polled its Amtrak-employed members concerning the acceptance of a contract with Amtrak under similar terms and conditions as those accepted by the crafts who have already signed. We understand that more than 2,000 ballots were sent out to BMWE members; and 85.5 percent of the responses voted to continue to bargain for a better settlement.

“I shall provide further updates as negotiations continue.”

(Editors’ note: In May 2010, Amtrak clerks and carmen represented by the Transportation Communications Union ratified new five-year agreements with Amtrak that, according to the TCU, provided for a 15 percent general wage increase over five years.)

UTU Local 377 members — engineers, conductors and brakemen — employed by Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad have ratified a new five-year agreement by an almost 8-to-1 margin.

Balloting was by craft under provisions of the UTU constitution guaranteeing craft autonomy; and each of the crafts was solidly in favor of the agreement.

More than 90 percent of members cast ballots, which UTU International officials termed “outstanding and quite typical of Local 377’s membership.”

The newly ratified agreement provides for general wage increases, guaranteed extra boards, 401(k) plan enhancements, and personal incentive bonuses.

UTU General Chairperson John Lesniewski (GO 049), who led the negotiations, called the ratified agreement “a great contract in the best of times, and extraordinary during this lean economic climate.”

Lesniewski praised the efforts of his negotiating team, which included Vice General Chairperson Steven Mavity and Local 377 Chairperson Harry Mahaffey.

Lesniewski also thanked UTU International President Mike Futhey and GO 049 Vice General Chairperson Jeremy Ferguson “for their advice and support directed towards reaching this pact.”

Buffalo & Pittsburgh, acquired by holding company Genesee & Wyoming in 1988, is a 368-mile regional railroad serving western New York and western Pennsylvania, and connects with major railroads Canadian Pacific, CSX, and Norfolk Southern.

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.