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A "fundamental breakdown" in safe railroad operating practices was the conclusion of the Federal Railroad Administration after its 14-day system-wide investigation of Union Pacific Railroad in early September.
Eleven people were killed in UP accidents in the first eight months of 1997, prompting the FRA to launch an unprecedented investigation into the Class I railroad.
Union Pacific locomotive unit 9118 following the August 20 accident in Ft. Worth, Texas. See the BLE Safety Task Force report on page 6 for details.
The FRA reported its findings in a 17 page report, and many of the criticisms against Union Pacific have been known to members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers for years.
"Certain areas of the report, such as the sections on Crew Utilization and Harassment and Intimidation are directly on the point," said BLE International President Clarence Monin. "Those sections echo the complaints that have been raised by our members and forwarded to the FRA and various CEOs of Union Pacific over the last few years."
In terms of crew handling, the FRA found "significant evidence of ineffective crew utilization which leads directly to crew fatigue, stress, a lowering of morale, violations of the Hours of Service law, and reduced ability to comply with operating rules.
"Crews are needlessly working longer hours without getting time off. Cumulative fatigue erodes train and engine service employee ability to perform their duties safely. The end result is train accidents and employee fatalities," the report continued.
"Time wasted on dead head transportation keeps crews away from home needlessly, delays final release tie-ups, extends periods crews are not available for service and contributes substantially to manpower shortages."
According to the FRA's report, 57 percent of the UP locomotive fleet was defective, including some serious safety violations. In addition, the FRA noted instances where engineers performed their daily locomotive inspections and found defects, but were ordered by supervisors to use the locomotive anyway without repairs being made.
"Defective equipment is being used to operate trains, which can lead to serious collisions and derailments," the report stated.
When interviewing BLE members in the field, the FRA uncovered many horror stories of engineer harassment.
"One engineer claimed that when engineers perform daily locomotive inspections and find defects, they are ordered to use the locomotive without repairs being made," the report stated.
"He also elaborated that if an engineer is 'too picky,' that is, finds too many defects too often, that person's rules and efficiency testing increases in an attempt to retaliate against that person."
The FRA also slammed UP on its new Upgrade Policy.
"Many employees are being harassed and intimidated and perceive a 'double standard.'
"Some employees feel that discipline (Upgrade policy) is totally unjust; an employee will receive 15 days worth of suspension for failure to wear earplugs, yet be ordered to operate trains with non-complying locomotives, thus manifesting the 'double standard' perception." ·
CLEVELAND, Sept. 25 Running trades employees at Via Rail Canada Inc., who approved the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers as their representative in a special runoff election, can count on the support of a strong grassroots organization that will fight for their interests, BLE President Clarence Monin said today.
"We did not seek this election, but we did not run from it either," Monin said. "We're proud that the majority of the workers chose us, and we pledge to work hard to win a fair agreement that will protect the jobs and futures of every member in the unit."
The Canadian Labour Relations Board ordered the run-off election at the urging of the United Transportation Union after Via Rail filed a Section 18 application seeking to merge different job classifications for running trades employees under a single "operating engineer" category.
The proposed job merger combined the duties of BLE-represented workers and workers represented by UTU under the old job classification system.
"We tried to work with UTU to find a way to help their members who were affected by the change in job status, but UTU pushed for a runoff instead," Monin said. "We are sorry UTU decided to take this tack, but we are happy to welcome their former members into the BLE family."
The vote count was 286 for BLE to 260 for UTU.
BLE Canadian Director Gilles Hallé credited the victory to the efforts of BLE members and officers in Canada who worked tirelessly with the Via Rail workers. Hallé said the next step is to negotiate the terms and conditions that will govern the transfer of workers into the newly created operating duties.
"We now have to keep our sleeves rolled up and our feet on the ground," Hallé said. "We have an enormous task ahead of us. It's time to deliver what we promised and show to all members our strength and unity." ·
BLE President Clarence Monin held a meeting with Robert Allen, chairman of the National Carriers' Conference Committee (NCCC), on September 29 for the purpose of wrapping up the outstanding issues on the application of certification pay.
The meeting was intended to finally resolve the issues raised by railroad management after the arbitration award on certification pay was issued.
At the meeting, the NCCC agreed that certification pay will be allowed:
· When engineers are required to undergo a check ride either on a simulator or a locomotive;
· When qualifying over a territory;
· When in pilot or helper service; and
· Every time an engineer begins a new tour of duty.
The only outstanding issue is the effective date of the award and thereby how much back pay engineers are entitled to receive. The BLE contends the effective date of the award should be Dec. 1, 1995, while the carriers argue it should be effective no earlier than March 12, 1996. The parties have agreed to arbitrate this outstanding issue.
Arbitration Board No. 564 issued its certification pay award March 12, agreeing with the BLE that engineers should receive an allowance for the additional burdens placed on them as a result of the certification and decertification regulation.
However, the board did not agree with the BLE on the proper amount of the allowance, awarding locomotive engineers $5 per day.
The ink was barely dry on the award when the carriers began quibbling over the language to avoid payment whenever possible. On April 15, the carriers issued 19 questions and answers, applying their own interpretations of the award. President Monin immediately responded to their charade, calling it absurd, ludicrous and unreasonable. He answered each position of the carriers with the BLE's position and provided a copy to BLE general chairmen. The entire text of both the carriers and the BLE was published in the May 1997 issue of the Locomotive Engineer newsletter.
Several meetings were held in an effort to arrive at a reasonable application and interpretation of the award. In the meantime, several general committees were successful in convincing their carriers to begin paying the certification allowance in some form, pending the outcome of agreed-to interpretations.
Complete details concerning certification pay will be published in the next issue of the newsletter, including the entire text of the agreed-to questions and answers. ·
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