Arbitrator saddles TCU with increased health care costs

The Transportation Communications International Union announced on January 24 that arbitrator Robert Harris had issued a final decision in the union's arbitration case covering pay and health and welfare issues for the Clerical and Carmen national agreements.

The arbitrator's decision provides for cost of living adjustments and general wage increases, but more importantly, saddles TCU members with increased monthly health insurance payments.

Rail labor had been closely watching the outcome of the TCU health and welfare arbitration as it may serve as a pattern for other unions' collective bargaining agreements.

"I do not believe that TCU members should be required to make these health and welfare contributions," said TCU President Robert A. Scardelletti. "We presented a strong case for higher wages and dramatically lower contributions I am furious that the arbitrator went as high as he did on health payments. He was clearly influenced by the company's presentation that emphasized that the cost of our plan is almost double the average plan, and the fact that the company is currently paying $876 a month per employee for our coverage."

Prior to the arbitrator's ruling, TCU members, like all railroad union members, paid little out-of-pocket expenses for health care insurance and no monthly premium contributions. The arbitrator sided with rail carriers and ruled that not only should TCU members begin paying part of the monthly premiums, but that they should pay retroactively for health care insurance dating back to 2001.

TCU members now owe retroactive health and welfare payments of $33.39 per month from July 1, 2001, to June 30, 2002. That monthly premium skyrockets to $81.18 per month, retroactively from July 1, 2002 to June 30, 2003. Looking ahead - from July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2004 - the monthly fee for health insurance will decrease slightly to $79.74 per month. After July 1, 2004, the monthly contribution will be capped no higher than $100 per month.

As part of the arbitrator's ruling, TCU members were given retroactive wage increases. However, these wage increases were set so that they basically offset the retroactive health insurance premiums. Therefore, most TCU members will receive payments less than $200 in retroactive wage increases, depending on number of hours worked.

Scardelletti said the arbitrator adopted the carrier health and welfare proposal "almost verbatim." The main difference, he said, is that the arbitrator capped employee monthly health and welfare payments at $100 per month after July 1, 2004, while the carriers had proposed payments of nearly $135 per month.

Even though he was disappointed in the ruling, President Scardelletti said he did not second-guess the decision to arbitrate instead of going to a Presidential Emergency Board.

"This White House, more than any we know of in history, is wired to the railroad industry, as indicated by its recent nomination of CSX's CEO to a high cabinet post All our work rules and job protection agreements would have been up for grabs before a pro-railroad, pro-business, anti-labor panel. Nor could we expect sympathy from a Republican-dominated Congress."

Despite the "outrageously high" employee contributions for health insurance, President Scardelletti said the average TCU member "will still be ahead" of where they would be financially under the current contract. The ruling provides wage increases of 3 percent on July 1, 2003 and 3.25 percent on July 1, 2004. The retroactive wage increases, which offset the retroactive health insurance payments, were 2.5 percent on June 30, 2002, and 3.5 percent on July 1, 2002. The total wage increase is some 12.25 percent.


© 2003 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers