Negotiations remain at a standstill for Amtrak General Committee

Amtrak's scarce funding allocation coupled with the lingering effects of David Gunn's anti-labor ideology continues to plague the Amtrak property today and has resulted in labor/management relations becoming virtually non-existent, according to General Chairman Mark Kenny.

"Equally important, despite repeated attempts toward resolution, we have been wholly unsuccessful in moving Amtrak's Director of Labor Relations, Joseph Bress, from his insolent position with respect to negotiating a fair agreement for our members and bringing our six-year CBA battle to an end," Kenny said. "Worse still, with the directionless course Amtrak is currently following, there appears to be little opportunity, if any, for us to end that process without making our case before a PEB.

"Amtrak's meager FY 06 budget is barely enough to keep us hobbling along on our continuing 30-year cash starvation diet," he said. "The departure of David Gunn and his callow Operations VP, Ed Walker, may provide some marginal relief and opportunity for change.

"But, Amtrak's over-bloated and thoroughly incompetent management staff, whose ignorance is only exceeded by their arrogance, continues to thwart any measurable change in the condition between labor/management relations. Unfortunately, we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place."

President Bush is no longer threatening to shut down Amtrak trains that carry 68,000 passengers a day, but the BLET and other critics say the passenger railroad still is not getting enough money to become a strong alternative to airplanes and automobiles.

Bush proposed giving Amtrak $900 million for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. That is $900 million more than he proposed last year, when an outraged Congress ended up giving Amtrak $1.3 billion.

This time, Bush administration officials say they are funding the nation's passenger rail service because it is on a self-improvement track.

Of the $900 million in proposed federal money, $500 million would go toward improving tracks, wires and other infrastructure along the Washington-to-Boston Northeast corridor, one of a handful of Amtrak's moneymaking routes where the railroad owns most of the track. Freight companies own just more than 21,000 miles of track elsewhere in the United States, and Amtrak runs its trains on those rails.

Bush officials want to give the remaining $400 million as grants to operate the trains, but there is no guarantee Amtrak would get all of it. The checks would not be cut unless Amtrak shows it is turning things around. Amtrak and the administration are working on criteria to judge progress.

"The GCA is forced to devote our time, energy and resources toward securing federal funding for Amtrak," Kenny said. "However, when it comes to repaying that assistance in the form of a new collective bargaining agreement for our highly-skilled and dedicated work force of Passenger Engineers, Amtrak management refuses to retreat from its totally unreasonable position for even greater labor reform and substantial economic off-sets to pay for the cost of a new agreement.

"The time has come for us to change that way of thinking by whatever means necessary," Kenny concluded.



© 2006 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen