BLET News Briefs

CSX bills Florida city, county for 'maintenance'

The small city of Starke, Fla., was caught off guard in October by a bill from CSX in the amount of $43,000.

Bradford County, Fla., also received a bill, this one for $36,964.

What's the reason for the bill? According to a letter from CSX, the railroad claims it has for several years miscalculated the city's and county's share of the annual cost for maintaining the signals at its railroad crossings.

The statute of limitations prevents CSX for collecting additional maintenance costs older than five years. In the letter, however, CSX requested payment within 25 days.

The large amount of the bill and the short length of time in which payment was expected drew a mixture of laughter and indignation from city officials.

Bryceville City Commissioner Don Tilley said he was not in favor of paying the bill. He said if the railroad miscalculated, then its CSX's fault, not the city's.

Last month, it was reported by Florida television station WJXX that CSX was attempting to force residents in Bryceville, Fla., to pay an annual fee of $800 to keep a highway-rail grade crossing open. The residents live on Hambone Drive in Bryceville, and crossing the CSX tracks is the only way in and out of the neighborhood.

(From the Bradford County Telegraph.)

CSX to cut 1,000 jobs, but will buy $1 million in Super Bowl tickets

CSX Corp., which in early November announced it will cut up to 1,000 nonunion employees, recently agreed to buy $1 million worth of tickets for the 2005 Super Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., the city where CSX is headquartered.

CSX said it would use the tickets to entertain Fortune 500 clients and to reward employees, CSX Vice President Adam Hollingsworth told the Associated Press. He said that the company "had some tough choices to make."

"I can understand those that might have difficult time reconciling these two different decisions," he said.

CSX CEO Michael Ward is on the Super Bowl Host Committee. He declined to comment.

In the third quarter, CSX reported a loss of $103 million after recording more than $200 million in charges to change the way it estimates injury liabilities and to settle a dispute related to a 1999 sale of international container shipping assets.

CSX has 34,000 employees and its rails cross 23 states.

(From the Associated Press.)

CN to seek cuts in train and engine service crews

If Canadian National Railway can renegotiate more union contracts to pay workers by the hour instead of distance travelled, it will be able to reduce its train and engine crew workforce by up to 35 per cent, CEO Hunter Harrison said in a speech to investors on November 11.

Over the past year, CN won a breakthrough on the hourly-pay issue with some of its U.S. unions, affecting 1,700 employees. CN is currently negotiating with several unions in Canada.

Labour contracts from the steam-engine era used to limit workers' daily travel to 100 miles (160 kilometres), though that cap has frequently been raised over the years.

"Now we can get 7,000 to 7,500 miles (up to 12,000 kilometres) a month from the same employees that were producing 4,000 to 4,500 miles (up to 7,200 kilometres) a month," Harrison said. "You can do the math and quickly tell that, over time, we can reduce the workforce - from a train and engine room standpoint - 30 to 35 per cent."

CN employees approximately 4,700 in the operating crews.

Will Canadian unions go along with the new system?

Gilles Hallé, Canadian director for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, said the railway has to convince the union that its plan to switch from a mileage-based system to an hourly system would benefit workers.

"We told them we're not interested," Hallé said in an interview. "We will not work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week."

(From Bloomberg News and the Canadian Press.)

CN wants to buy Duluth, Missage & Iron Range Railway

Two cornerstones of Minnesota's transportation industry - the Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range Railway Co. and the USS Great Lakes Fleet Inc. - soon could have new owners. And the deal will likely cost approximately 122 jobs.

On October 20, CN announced its plans to buy the Duluth-based rail and maritime assets from Great Lakes Transportation LLC, based in Monroeville, Pa., for about $380 million U.S.

In a filing to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, CN said it expects to cut 122 jobs once it completes its takeover. DM&IR employs about 500 people.

"Right now, everything is so new and so fresh that no one knows exactly what to make of the deal," said Dick DeLano, a DM&IR engineer and chairman of BLET Division 163.

"Obviously, people are nervous about the unknown," he said. "But at the same time, most of us recognize that there could be a lot of positives that could come out of this, too. CN is an experienced operator, and it has the kind of money that's needed to revitalize our aging car fleet."

DeLano said he doubts the idea of transferring out of the region will appeal to many of his co-workers.

"You have to remember, this is a homegrown railroad," he said, "and people are used to working around the same neighborhoods where they live, whether that's Two Harbors, Proctor or the Iron Range. People might not want to move to Montreal."

(From the Duluth News Tribune.)



© 2004 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen