Amtrak contract talks: January 2011 update

January 18, 2011

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.)