M&NA shortline workers ratify new contract

Members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen have ratified their second collective bargaining agreement with the Missouri & Northern Arkansas Railroad, a RailAmerica regional railroad headquartered in Carthage, Mo. Approximately 71 percent of the members returned ballots with a wide majority (74 percent) in favor of the proposed settlement.

The four-year agreement was ratified on March 15 and became effective on March 30. The agreement covers approximately 90 members and provides a general wage increase package of 10 percent over the life of the agreement. In addition, members are now eligible for the RailAmerica Incentive Compensation Plan (ICP), which provides for the possibility of another 6 percent of the employees' gross wages (calculated and paid quarterly).

The wage package is retroactive to January 1, 2006, and back pay will be calculated on all wages throughout this period. Also, the members will be eligible for the ICP for the first quarter of 2008.

Several work rules were added or enhanced as part of the new contract, such as a newly structured training program for all employees. There is also a new guaranteed 9x3 work/rest cycle provision, which guarantees three days of rest after nine days of work. The provision provides for a much needed fatigue countermeasure for those working an extra board.

"Although it took us a while to get (and keep) the right players at the table, it seems to be worth the wait," said BLET General Chairman Rick Gibbons. "There were several major obstacles that kept us from advancing the plot over the past two years, such as the sale of RailAmerica to the Fortress Group and the revolving door for General Managers, but we finalized the deal as shown by the overwhelming return of ballots and the vast majority in favor of the agreement."

Gibbons also thanked the two involved Local Chairmen, Keith Knight of BLET Division 116 and Rick Oeltjen of BLET Division 178 for their continued involvement. He also thanked GCA Vice Chairman Randy Dumey and Vice President Steve Speagle for helping define the bargaining group and for bringing additional expertise and knowledge to the bargaining table.

"I couldn't be more proud of a group of guys in this difficult time for negotiations," Brother Gibbons said. "It was a collective effort and we are very proud of the outcome."

The employees on the Missouri & Northern Arkansas Railroad were first organized in 1999 and their first BLET negotiated agreement went into effect in April of 2000. The MNA is one of several BLET represented properties under the RailAmerica umbrella.

MNA operates approximately 540 miles of line in Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri. Its main line extends 384.1 miles (plus 40 miles of trackage rights on Union Pacific Railroad lines) from Kansas City, Mo., to Newport, Ark. MNA interchanges with Union Pacific at both points. MNA also interchanges with BNSF Railway at Lamar, Mo., Carthage, Aurora, Springfield, and Joplin, Mo., and with Kansas City Southern Railway at Joplin.

MNA also operates several miles of industrial trackage in the city of Springfield; this segment is disconnected from the rest of the MNA system and traffic is hauled via BNSF to and from the Aurora interchange.

MNA traffic generally consists of coal, grain, frozen foods, minerals, steel, chemicals, asphalt, and forest products. MNA operates unit coal trains to major power plants at Independence, Ark. and Montrose, Mo.


© 2008 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen