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L&I short line workers get first BLET contract

CLEVELAND, May 20 -- Less than a year after joining the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, members on the formerly non-union Louisville & Indiana Railroad (L&I) have their first-ever collective bargaining agreement.

The BLET scored its organizing victory at the L&I on May 7, 2004, and the members ratified their new contract by an 80 percent majority on April 1, 2005.

The contract, which extends over the next three years and 10 months, provides many benefits that were unavailable when the short line was a non-union property.

“Some key provisions that our members did not previously have are a grievance procedure addressing pay issues, a discipline policy as our members are no longer at-will employees and seniority rules,” said BLET Vice-President Merle Geiger Jr., who led the negotiating team.

“We were able to secure payments made by the company prior to being represented by the BLET (gain sharing and longevity pay). We were able to maintain an excellent benefit package including vacations, holidays, personal leave days, bereavement leave and jury duty. In addition medical, dental and life insurance were maintained with no increases in cost sharing at this time for our members.”

Vice-President Geiger said compensation for overtime was the Brotherhood’s biggest challenge during negotiations. The BLET negotiating team overcame management’s best efforts and secured improvements in overtime rules and pay for the L&I membership.

“The overtime was a very difficult hurdle to overcome as management stated at the beginning of negotiations that they would not entertain overtime in any form,” Geiger said. “L&I paid no overtime because employees were on a daily salary. It did not matter if they worked six hours or 12 — they were paid the same. Workers also did not receive overtime for working on the sixth or seventh day of the week — just a $20 premium. We were finally able to get our foot in the door on overtime and now overtime will be paid on an accumulative basis, either at the pro rata or punitive rate of pay, based on a sliding scale for hours worked in excess of 40 hours on a five day assignment and 48 hours on a six day assignment in addition to the $20 premium.

“We were also able to establish a basic day provision and payment of the highest rate of pay qualified for whether our member was working in that craft or not.”

Brother Geiger thanked Brother John Mullen, BLET Director of Shortlines, and Dan Hartil, BLET member and L&I employee, for their invaluable assistance during negotiations.

Headquartered in Jeffersonville, Ind., the Louisville & Indiana Railroad was formed in March 1994 to acquire 106 miles of rail line between Indianapolis and Louisville. The line serves numerous major companies and an inland port facility. Since formation, L&I has located a number of new industries to its lines. It has been designated a future high-speed rail corridor by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The L&I connects with the CP-Soo, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern, and the PAL. Its annual volume is 33,000 carloads. The primary commodities it handles include: grain, cement, steel, scrap, plastics, food products, auto parts, lumber, chemicals, paper, and manufactured goods.

L&I is owned by the Anacostia & Pacific Company, Inc., whose other holdings include the New York & Atlantic Railway, Pacific Harbor Line, and the Chicago Southshore & South Bend Railroad. The BLET already represents workers at the Pacific Harbor Line, and operating employees at the New York & Atlantic voted to join the BLET on Nov. 20, 2003.

Friday, May 20, 2005
bentley@ble-t.org

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