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BLET members ratify new contract at Montana Rail Link

CLEVELAND, December 12 — By a better than 3-to-1 majority, members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen ratified a new collective bargaining agreement with Montana Rail Link (MRL) on November 20. The agreement covers approximately 400 members.

The agreement provides for six general wage increases totaling 18.6 percent — a compounded value of 20.1 percent — over the life of the agreement, which runs through April 1, 2016. Members will also receive a $1,500 signing bonus. Wage increases were effective December 1, 2012, and include retroactive payments for affected employees.

The agreement also governs numerous work rules and employee health and welfare benefits. The agreement maintains a provision that two locomotive engineers will remain in the cab on trains operating in road service, an important victory for MRL members. It also calls for various other improvements, including an increase in meal allowances effective April 1, 2013.

BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce thanked the MRL membership for their participation in negotiations and the ratification process. He also commended the members of the negotiating team for the commitment: BNSF/MRL General Chairman Matt O. Wilson; National Vice President Mike Priester; 1st Vice General Chairman Jerry LaPrath; Local Chairman Pat Ricci, Division 262 (Missoula, Mont.); and Local Chairman Paul Slater, Division 232 (Laurel, Mont.).

The previous contract expired in April of 2011. Brother Wilson thanked the MRL membership for staying informed throughout the 19-month negotiating process.

“I want to express my personal appreciation to our members on Montana Rail Link who stuck in there throughout this tough process and who appeared at all those union meetings during our many visits to their divisions, and particularly those who spoke up,” Wilson said. “Our membership not only fought for wages equal to those who work on the Class I railroads, but they also fought to preserve two engineers in the cab on trains operating in road service.”

An important side letter obtained by the BLET was a commitment from MRL to attain and maintain a number of engineers sufficient to cover all engineer and assistant engineer positions (including extra board positions) with qualified engineers, while having a modest surplus of qualified engineers available to meet peak service demands.

“This was a long and difficult process and I thank the actively involved MRL membership for their perseverance,” President Pierce said. “The negotiating team also deserves credit for the hard work to obtain a ratified contract agreement. This contract will help maintain the quality of life our members have earned through their professionalism, hard work and dedication to the craft.”

Headquartered in Missoula, Mont., MRL is a Class II regional railroad that consists of more than 900 miles of track serving over 100 stations in the states of Montana, Idaho and Washington. It connects with the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) at Laurel and Garrison, Mont., as well as Spokane, Wash. It connects with the Union Pacific Railroad at Sandpoint, Idaho.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012
bentley@ble-t.org

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