BLET, CSX reach tentative 'single system' agreement

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and CSX Transportation reached a tentative on-property, single system agreement in late February.

Contract information and ballots were mailed to more than 5,500 BLET members on February 28, and tabulation of the ballots will begin after the April 15 due date. It is called a single system agreement because it would unify work rules and pay across three of the four BLET general committees at CSX.

"An incredible amount of work that went into the CSX single system agreement, and I applaud the three General Chairmen and Vice President Paul Sorrow for their work," said Don Hahs, BLET National President. "They did an outstanding job of tailoring the agreement to their specific General Committees on CSX."

President Hahs said the time-consuming negotiating process took more than two years to complete. He recognized General Chairmen Tony Smith (CSX Eastern Lines), Don Moates (CSX Western Lines), and Rick Finamore (CSX Northern Lines) for finally bringing the negotiations to a conclusion. (The Conrail SAA/CSXT Northern District GCA is not a party to the agreement.)

The agreement offers many unique provisions, many of which should pay off handsomely for BLET members.

For example, BLET negotiators opted for a Performance Bonus Program instead of traditional general wage increases. While engineers will receive a 3 percent wage increase and a $2,500 signing bonus, future pay increases are tied to company performance. If CSX Corp. reaches its financial goals, then engineers will receive a 6 percent bonus of their 2007 earnings, an 8 percent bonus of their 2008 earnings, and a 10 percent bonus of their 2009 earnings.

"We believe our members will make more money under the Performance Bonus Program than general wage increases," said BLET Vice President Paul Sorrow.

President Hahs said that if engineers are unhappy with the Performance Bonus Program, then there is a snap back provision that allows them to convert to general wage increases that are part of the tentative BLET National Agreement.

"The Performance Bonus Program is very similar to the program the BLET negotiated on Norfolk Southern a few years ago," President Hahs said. "It has been well received by the majority of our members there and we believe the case will be the same for our CSX Brothers and Sisters."

Members will also realize increased pay thanks to a new "special pay differential." Locomotive engineers, including those in pilot service, will qualify for the special pay differential of $15 per basic day in freight and yard service, plus 15 cents per mile for any and all trips in such service. The special pay differential will eliminate the current $5 certification pay. However, if members opt out of the Performance Bonus Program, then the special pay differential snaps back to the $5 certification pay.

Absenteeism was a major issue for CSX management throughout negotiations. To address that, the BLET negotiated a perfect attendance award program. All members will be eligible for an award of 20 shares of CSX common stock for every six months of perfect attendance on weekends. "Perfect attendance" means 100 percent availability on Friday, Saturday and Sunday during a calendar six month period.

The BLET obtained an additional week of vacation for members with 30 years of service, and negotiated an accelerated personal leave day clause that allows members to bank up to 100 personal leave days.

The BLET also secured a meal allowance increase, which is tied to a cost of living adjustment. As a result, the amount of meal allowances will increase as time goes by.

There is also an improvement regarding the held away from home terminal provision. Engineers in pool freight and unassigned service will commence continuous time after the expiration of 15 hours from the time relieved from the previous day, in lieu of the current 16 hour rule. Those employees will be paid continuously until they are called for service, a much needed benefit for BLET members that work this type of service and are required to spend extensive time away from home.

The BLET also obtained a vastly improved 401(k) savings plan for its members. The new plan guarantees engineers a 50 cent carrier match for every dollar invested, not to exceed 2 percent of employee earnings. An additional plan was gained that provides for 50 cent carrier match on each dollar invested up to an additional 4 percent of employee earnings. The additional match is contingent upon CSX management meeting certain financial goals.

Pay and benefit improvements were obtained for road switcher assignments. Road switchers will now receive 11 personal leave days in addition to 11 paid holidays, and they will be paid at the five-day yard engineer rate of pay.

The General Chairmen also secured a scope rule, which protects the BLET's contractual right to man and operate locomotives either in conventional or non-conventional (remote control) service outside of terminal limits. It also protects the BLET's right to operate all conventional yard service.

"Obtaining this particular scope rule was paramount in our endeavor to protect work for the locomotive engineer," Vice President Sorrow said. "The scope rule mirrors the scope rule the BLET recently obtained on the Grand Trunk Western and it is my hope that these two scope rules will be the foundation for a nationwide scope rule."



© 2007 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen