RLBC seeks workforce stabilization

Rail Labor Bargaining Coalition submits workforce stabilization, growth proposals

On May 19, the Rail Labor Bargaining Coalition (RLBC) put forth a proposal to the rail carriers to stabilize employment in each rail craft.

"For years the rail carriers have been downsizing their work force and increasing the required hours for the remaining employees. This reduction has compromised the safety of our members and has put the safety of the public at risk," said George Francisco, coordinator of the RLBC and president of the NCFO.

The RLBC proposal is structured to address incidents such as that in Macdona, Texas last year when a Union Pacific freight train traveling at 45 mph through a stop signal smashed into another freight train, puncturing a tank car and spilling chlorine gas. The engineer and conductor on the train had worked more than 60 hours over the previous week. Their shifts were long and their hours erratic, as is common in the railroad industry. In the weeks leading up to the crash, each man's work schedule had at least 15 different starting times at all hours of the day.

"The Macdona crash and a multitude of others across the country illustrates a growing fact of life for thousands of engineers and trainmen who guide giant freight trains: fatigued crews lead to accidents, all too often with deadly results," said Don Hahs, President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), a Division of the Teamsters. "It is incumbent upon the RLBC to ensure, for the safety of our members and the public, that the trains are moved by crews that are not overworked and have had adequate rest."

The RLBC proposal seeks to ensure an adequate number of employees on a rail line in relation to the growth in demand for its rail services. The Association of American Railroads has projected the demand for freight service will jump 67 percent by 2020, yet the carriers have failed to maintain a work force sufficient to maintain infrastructure and operate trains.

"This proposal is crucial for reducing fatigue in the rail industry and improving safety of rail operations," said Fred Simpson, national president of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED).

The seven unions of the coalition represent nearly 85,000 rail workers from American railroad corporations.

(This is the third in a series of articles aimed at keeping members informed during the current round of contract negotiations.)



© 2005 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen