Rail Conference has first bargaining session

Carriers attempt to crack Rail Labor's solidarity during initial face-to-face meeting

The Teamsters Rail Conference (Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED)), along with four other rail unions conducted its first negotiations with the National Carriers' Conference Committee (NCCC) on January 24, at the NCCC offices in Washington, D.C.

The group of six unions is called the "Rail Labor Bargaining Coalition" (RLBC), which consists of BMWED; BLET; Brotherhood of Railway Signalmen; National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU; Sheet Metal Workers' International Association; International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers; and American Train Dispatchers' Association.

The RLBC will bargain collectively with the Carriers regarding wages, rules, and health and welfare issues served in its January 3 Section 6 notices.

A key element of the RLBC structure is the written commitment by each of its members that they will not make a separate agreement with all or some of the Carriers over matters contained in the RLBC's Section 6 notice without the consent of the other Coalition members.

The RLBC's chief spokesman at the January 24 meeting was Roland P. Wilder Jr. of the law firm of Baptiste & Wilder, headquartered in Washington, D.C.

The bargaining session began at 1 p.m. and the parties solely discussed the procedures and form of the negotiations. Bob Allen, the NCCC's chief spokesperson, asked a series of questions about the RLBC members' authority to bargain and constantly probed about the RLBC's internal decision-making process and ratification procedures. Additionally, he asked if the RLBC would be the bargaining agent to discuss the NCCC notices served November 1, 2004, on each of the RLBC member unions.

Wilder told Allen that as to NCCC notices that mirrored RLBC notices, the RLBC would bargain regarding the NCCC notices, as to other NCCC notices, he deferred an answer. This answer clearly upset Allen because he said he had craft-specific issues to discuss with BMWED and BRS (outsourcing) and BLET (single person crews) that surely were of no interest to other RLBC members. In other words, he is looking for a way to cut a stray out of the herd and the RLBC format makes his job much more difficult.

The meeting concluded with no definitive agreement on procedural issues. The NCCC will propose additional meeting dates in the near future, but were not yet available as this publication went to press.

The following day (January 25), the Cooperating Rail Labor Organizations (CRLO) met with the NCCC to discuss the parties' respective Section 6 notices. (The RLBC Health and Welfare notice is identical to those served by the other CRLO unions.)

After CRLO Chairman Bob Scardelletti went over the unions' health and welfare demands, Allen commented that he was "blown away" and "flabbergasted" by the proposal. He considered the notice completely over the top and said there was very little for the parties to discuss. Allen said the Carriers were interested in "cost control" - in other words, the NCCC is seeking increased employee contributions, benefit cuts or other reductions.

Allen proposed going to mediation immediately. Scardelletti said mediation was premature and that the CRLO would caucus and propose new meeting dates in the future. The CRLO held an internal caucus on February 8 and 9.

Based on this first meeting, it was made abundantly clear that the current round of collective bargaining will present great challenges to the Teamsters Rail Conference and the other members of the Rail Labor Bargaining Coalition.

This is the first in a series of articles aimed at keeping members informed during the current round of negotiations.



© 2005 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen